Sunday, 27 February 2011

Crystal ball gazing

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.


  1. Oh dear.
    Bans ,state funded anti alchohol pressure groups springing up everywhere.
    Higher tax.
    A more stay at home public.
    It's not the perfect storm.
    It's the perfect mass extinction.

  2. I've seen plenty close, many turn into cafés with beer, some more like crèches but I've not seen any open.

  3. A 10% drop in business could be a 100% drop in profit.

    Suppose a pub has 100 customers a day; but, it takes 90 customers per day to cover the over-head costs.

    If 10 customers do not come in, that is only a 10% loss in business; but, it is a 100% loss in profits.

    If 15 customers do not come in, the pub goes out of business!!!

    Gary K.

  4. We are so used to pubs closing these days, that we barely raise an eyebrow when another one closes. I hope that one day, we will view this phenomenon in the same way as The Beeching Report and it's devastating consequences.

  5. Helen - It is harder to see what could be done about pubs closing though.

    It isn't just the smoking ban. The number of smokers outside thriving pubs indicate the problem is much wider. The market has changed.

  6. Even boozers that cater for enthusiasts rather than mainstream drinkers have to ask where the future supply of enthusiasts come from. They come from mainstream drinkers seeking to intellectualise their habits and convincing themselves they are “discerning” drinkers. Fewer mainstream pubs would have an eventual knock on effect to the number of pubs catering for enthusiasts.

  7. Well yes, few pubs survive on the trade of enthusiasts alone, and if pubgoing declines to the extent that it's regarded as something quite unusual and weird then it will become much harder to be an enthusiast.

    You can see a nightmare scenario where what we're left with is basically licensed restaurants masquerading as pubs, with each major town having one or two "brewpubs" which are seen as a good night out but not remotely something that is part of people's regular experience.

    So it is blinkered to say that the decline of the mainstream does not impact on the specialist outlet. (NB I am not suggesting Tandleman has ever argued this, but some do)


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