Three months ago I wrote a post called Steady Decline Continues, saying that the most recent BBPA Beer Barometer figures weren’t actually all that bad, considering. However, following a sharp downturn in the final quarter of 2012, the latest ones, released today, are markedly worse.
On an annualised basis, the overall beer market is down by 4.7% on 2011, with the pain shared equally between on- and off-trades. The on-trade is now 25% down on five years ago, and an annual 4.7% fall will halve the total in 14 years. Indeed, the past 14 years have seen a 45% drop. It’s no longer a switch from one to the other, it’s a decline right across the board, so the argument that “supermarkets are killing pubs” looks very threadbare.
The beer duty escalator must bear a substantial share of the blame for this. I certainly get the impression there has been a significant fattening of margins on undiscounted products in the off-trade, with a humble four-pack of Carling now often costing well north of £4, and the £3+ pint of cooking bitter has become commonplace in pubs. On the other hand, the anti-drink lobby will look at the figures and say “good result – keep with it”.