Monday, 11 February 2013

Premium position

Following the most recent round of brewery price increases, I paid £3.20 for a pint of Robinson’s Dizzy Blonde (3.8% ABV) in a pub within the boundaries of Stockport MBC. This compared with a previous price of £3.05, and so represented an increase of nearly 5% - and that’s before the next round of the duty escalator. There’s at least one pub I can think of within the borough boundaries where it would probably be at least 10p dearer, while on the other hand you could get the same beer, or the slightly stronger Unicorn, for £2.60, only a few miles away in and around the town centre.

On the face of it, such differentials may seem hard to justify when the underlying cost of the beer is identical. However, it must be remembered that these pubs are tenancies, not managed houses, and licensees are entitled to make their own judgment as to the appropriate level of pricing for their local area. Pub company owned pubs in the Stockport suburbs are already charging similar prices, and out in the leafier parts of Cheshire the typical price of a pint is well north of £3. Those with an interest in economics may also want to consider the concept of embedded rent, which is especially relevant to products such as pub drinks which are consumed at the time and place of purchase and not stored.

While it is undoubtedly true that differentials between pubs owned by the same brewery have widened over the years, it has always been the case that some pubs, often those serving a more prosperous clientele, have charged a price premium. And you can now see similar differentials in the Holts estate, once renowned for uniform low prices, between their “improved” pubs and their more traditional boozers.

A further factor is that customers of pubs in more salubrious areas will not only have more money in their pockets, but are also more likely to be diners and so will view the cost of their pint as part of their overall spend. A 50p differential on one or two pints will be neither here nor there if you’re spending £15 or more on a two-course meal, but if you’re going to the pub for a six-pint session you will be much more price-conscious.

The question must be asked, though, as to whether the trade as a whole is taking decisions which from the short-term perspective of the individual pub may seem to make sense, but in the long-term are likely to seriously erode business by continually raising prices above the general level of inflation, let alone their customers’ disposable income.


  1. Martin, Cambridge11 February 2013 at 23:39

    What's the Calverts Court charging now ? £1.99 or £2.09 seems to be pretty standard for Spoons (before vouchers !) outside London, which is impressive consistency.

  2. So we start off with an OMG about the cost of a pint of one of the more piss weak, piss flavoured & piss coloured Robbies piss waters, then a weak justification for it then a bit of a grumble at the end? Come on laddo, you are the Pub Curmudgeon. Muster some rage at this outrage. Good god man, in the last post you were even marginally optimistic about the pub trade. WTF is wrong?

    If the pub was dead at a time you’d expect it busy (Saturday night) then the offer is wrong. Price might be part of that and probably is if it seems high. If the pub is thriving even with silly prices, then there are enough mugs willing to stump up. As a generality, the higher the prices tend to be, the fewer mugs you tend to find. Plenty of areas seem to be moribund with lots of bearded experts saying underlying demand is just not there, decline is inevitable then the minute after the Spoons opens and proves them wrong as punters flood back they change tack to a “the bloody spoons is what’s killing the pubs”

    Oh and Dizzy Blonde is craft doncha know. Check out the bottles in Sainsbury’s. £1.99, no multibuy discount but “craft” written on ‘em. So you’re paying for “craft”, Mudge. As for Robbies, they are a small regional brewer in a working class town that have adopted a strategy of building the brand into a higher value bracket (no mention of stuckpit, only posh Cheshire). Some of that is fancy glassware, some of it fancy logos, some of it higher prices. You pay your money and takes your pick. Some of their higher end eateries are quite nice. Pricey but a bit better than your Toby carveries. My mum likes them. The beer shrines are a bit poncy and don’t really hit the spot for either for beer geekery or good old fashioned boozer. Most of the regular estate are just shit hole dumpy pubs of the type that have been dying a death for years.

    I hoped you nicked the Dizzy Blonde glass. The half pint stemmed ones are quite nice. If you nab a few, the £3.20 will not seem that high.

  3. Curmudgeon, count yourself VERY fortunate.

    Here in my corner of France, my local sells 500ml 'pints' of Guinness or Kilkenny for €4.90 (£4.22) during the ever so innapropriately named 'Happy Hour', and after that it's €7(£6) to you Sir, merci.

    I never thought I'd be paying six quid for a beer, but there you go...

  4. Pardon me for posting something a bit more reflective and less ranty, Cookie.

    And, in general, I would say higher prices are a sign of success in pubs, not failure. You don't see happy hours in Brunning & Price.

  5. @Martin - Calvert's Court and Gateway are £2.09 for guest beers, including ones up to the strength of Wobbly Bob.

  6. I can't pardon ya, Mudge. I am a regular reader I thought I knew what to expect. It's like going to the Daily Mail and finding out immigrants are nice people who have come here to fit in, work a job, improve their lot in life and be no trouble to no one. It's not what you want from it.

    As for Spoons prices, it was a sad day when it breeched £2. I think we should have 2 minutes silence at the next beard club meet.

  7. Cookie

    No, it was a sad day when Spoons stopped doing 99p pints!

  8. a) Count yourself lucky, here in the land of the over-valued dollar and over-exised booze, you'd be paying that much for a pot (1/2 pint!)

    b) Cookie, surely you meant 'breached'?


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