Following my predictions for what would happen to the beer and pub industry in the next 20 years, I asked the question “What will happen to UK on-trade beer sales in 2011?” There were 59 responses, broken down as follows:
Grow slightly: 2 (3%)
Stay about flat: 11 (19%)
Fall by up to 5%: 12 (20%)
Fall by 5-10%: 20 (34%)
Fall by over 10%: 14 (24%)
On-trade beer sales fell by an average of 7.3% over the past three years, and I can’t see anything much different happening this year. Over half of all respondents thought it would be at least as bad, if not worse.
But, as I said in the comments to the previous post, the fact that the overall market is contracting doesn’t mean there aren’t still opportunities for specialist pubs appealing to enthusiasts. The closure of the Four Heatons has no relevance to the opening of the Port Street Beer House. The risk is, of course, that the general contraction ultimately bites the specialist operators on the bum. You can only sustain a strategy of a rising share of a shrinking market for so long.