Tuesday, 5 April 2016

That’ll show ’em!

Tucked away at the end of the order paper at last weekend’s CAMRA AGM in Liverpool was a motion calling for CAMRA not to “promote, advertise or accept sponsorship from supermarkets”. This ended up being passed, although by that stage in the proceedings I suspect the key priority for many delegates was getting out of the hall for a pint. No doubt some of the activists felt a warm sense of achievement having struck a blow against The Man, but in reality it is just the kind of futile, anti-business, student gesture politics that causes many not to take the organisation seriously. I can’t imagine that the directors of Tesco and ASDA will be exactly quaking in their boots.

Supermarkets are often viewed as the enemies of pubs in terms of closing them down and turning them into convenience stores, and selling beer at rock-bottom prices. However, this is a simplistic and misleading analysis. What has really happened is more that various social and legislative changes have cut the demand for pubgoing, and to a large extent supermarkets have stepped into the breach. And selling stuff that people want to buy at keen prices – how appalling!

I’d guess that the vast majority of blog readers who do buy beer for consumption at home at least occasionally buy some from a supermarket. It’s also probably the case that each of the Big Four alone sells more beer brewed by British independent breweries than the whole of the independent off-licence sector combined. So it’s little more than an exercise in cutting off your nose to spite your face. Might it not make more sense to work with supermarkets to encourage them to stock a wider and better beer range rather than just hoping they’ll go away?

It also raises the question of how you define a supermarket. Would it cover Booths, who have a mere 28 stores in and around the North-West, and have a very impressive beer range with particular emphasis on smaller local breweries? Or indeed individual franchisees of umbrella brands such as Nisa and Spar?

26 comments:

  1. To avoid accusations of hypocrisy they needed to stop the "irresponsible supermarkets" rhetoric or stop taking their coin for bottled beer adverts. Looks like they have taken their pick and leaped at being a proxy middle class anti supermarket campaign. You'll be rubbing shoulder with Jamie fat tongue and Hugh Furnley cockwomble soon, fella.

    It has long been comedy gold to see "irresponsible" as a standard adjective used before "supermarket" in pretty much every issue of Whats Brewing and to turn a page to see a Tesco advert.

    Hopefully the London Pride adverts will stay. A beer I only ever drink in bottles or cans, never on cask, and allows me the giggle of saying "The pride is drinking well today"

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    1. I did contemplate adding that it is maybe a touch hypocritical to accept adverts for cask beers in the full knowledge that the implied message is to go out and buy them from Tesco as PBAs.

      And IIRC CAMRA still has a policy on its books opposing the "mass-media" advertising of alcoholic drinks, although whether it considers What's Brewing, with a circulation more than that of the Guardian, as a mass media organ, isn't made clear ;-)

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    2. Actually the "mass media" thing has been changed - there's certainly no blanket opposition in the current external policy document.

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  2. Yeah that'll learn 'em! Those supermarkets must really be shitting it now! Again i find myself agreeing with you...WTF? i have to go and evaluate my life choices!

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  3. "Futile, anti-business, student gesture politics", just about sums it up realy. How did this motion even make it onto the order paper, when far worthier ones get rejected (by a faceless committee), at the first hurdle?

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  4. Yes, all of the above.

    Is "CAMRA says this is Real Ale" still a thing? And had it ever appeared on a rebadged supermarket own brand? I rarely see it, but seen to recall it on supermarket real ale stalwart Bluebird Bitter.

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    1. Yes, still a thing. It appears on bottles of White Shield, for example.

      And less than a year ago, CAMRA collaborated with Marston's to create an own-brand BCA for Tesco. It seems to have tanked and has now disappeared from their shelves. I did try a few (some when "reduced to clear") but wasn't particularly impressed.

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  5. In fairness, CAMRA's anti-market pro-pub position isn't really new is it? They're a pressure group. That's the point. If the market was delivering what their members wanted, they would never have formed. Like cookie says, they've just cleaned up their act a bit.

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  6. "What's Brewing, with a circulation more than that of the Guardian". Er, not really.

    The Grauniad has a circulation of 50 million copies a year. What's Brewing, around 2 million but presumably advertisers are only too aware that most CAMRA members are regular supermarket shoppers.

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    1. I was referring to the print run of each individual issue. OK, the Guardian may still be a bit more, but they're in the same ballpark ;-)

      The current edition of What's Brewing doesn't in fact have any beer ads whatsoever. There are a few in BEER, but ads for "selling your timeshare", over-50s life cover and "luxurious moleskin trousers" gave a clue as to the reader demographic.

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    2. I haven't seen a What's Brewing for ages, since I decided not to renew my membership. I'm truly surprised there's no beer advertising!

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    3. What's more beard, moleskin trou or millets trou?

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    4. Moleskin trousers are more for the sophisticated gentleman beardie.

      Has that phone of yours developed a mind of its own again, Cookie?

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    5. I see Mudgie as a moleskin trouser wearer actually.

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    6. The moleskin is a fine trouser for a gentleman

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  7. motions like motion 11 get on the order paper, because it met the criteria set for conference motions, sounds obvious I know but the guidance is published and repeated every year and its surprising still how often motions are submitted which dont meet that guidance at all.

    a motion should only be on one subject, it should create a policy guideline or instruct the NE to do something, it should be a major policy subject, minor policy changes that can be dealt with by a committee or CAMRA are pushed through that process instead, and it shouldnt repeat existing policies unless it explicitly intends to cover policies that are being ignored.

    as for the actual debate on motion 11,it was certainly recognised the motion wording was too vague and that the likes of Booths were an unintended impact by the vagueness of that wording, though the intention of the motion was really to cover the "big 4 chain" supermarkets whose policies towards pricing and expansion impacts directly on pubs and pub going, yet promoting pubs & pub going is a key CAMRA campaign. Its not intended to cover RAIB, or stop people buying bottled beer in supermarkets, its simply if we are becoming more and more a Campaign for pubs, how can we promote or accept sponsorship/adverts from supermarkets who seem to be doing their best against pubs sometimes, it was recognised it would probably not be of impact to the supermarkets, and no its not the whole answer to the pub closures debate, but its possibly a piece of that puzzle.

    there was possibly a degree of weariness creeping in by the time we got to it, it was a very brusing & long weekend, and standing orders had been suspended to try and let us cover all the motions, as things had run over time, and it was certainly suggested or I interpreted it that way, that meant we couldnt remit the motion to get a better set of words, or amend it, you could only vote for or against it, and as such it was carried, not overwhelmingly Id have said,but there were a majority in favour.

    and final small correction point, we arent delegates, we are just members :)

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  8. Locally in East London the corner shops undercut places like Tesco on beer prices - with much the same selection. So should CAMRA be campaigning against corner shops now?

    Booths sold their stores in Lytham and St Annes (first place where I had a proper job) to Tesco two or three years or so ago, so I would be a little cautious about extolling their virtues.

    Ian

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    1. AIUI Booths sold a few stores on the Fylde because the areas in which they were located had become too downmarket for their trading format. Their website still shows stores in Lytham and St Annes.

      I don't own any shares, but I do regularly buy beer from their Hale Barns branch and would say they conspicuously make much more of an effort on beer than any of the major chains. They also have plenty of craft cans for those who like that kind of thing ;-

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    2. The answer to the Booths in St Annes is that they sold the centrally located store in the Square to Tesco and relocated to a larger 'out of town' location, which hopefully has room for a larger range of beers but is no longer in easy walking distance from where my father lives.

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  9. I enjoy my £1.65 bottles of Yorkshire Blonde from Morrisons, but it isn't real ale. Camra promotes real ale, so it should be no surprise they might not promote, advertise or accept sponsorship from supermarkets.

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    1. It's CAMRA policy (not unreasonably) not to accept adverts for "non-real" beers, but in the past I remember ASDA in particular advertising their range of bottle-conditioned beers. I don't think I've seen anything similar recently. So CAMRA isn't losing any advertising revenue and the supermarkets aren't losing any publicity.

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    2. Paul - for information WB and BEER will miss out on around £20,000 every year as a result of this motion (based on previous revenue from supermarket advertising). I'm not sure how the motion will affect advertising revenues elsewhere (for example branch magazines and festival advertising/sponsorship etc). I'll be seeking clarity on the interpretation of motion as the current wording potentially rules out publishing any editorial (thereby "promoting") about any supermarket, even if it is supporting CAMRA's aims and objectives

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    3. Thanks for that info, Tom. So CAMRA does stand to lose out more than I thought.

      Have you got any clarification of the definition of "supermarket" yet? Does it include Booths and franchise groups like Spar?

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    4. Anywhere working class people go to get cheap food is a supermarket and verboten.

      Anywhere middle class is a supermarché and allowed.

      Happy to clarify

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  10. This is neither here nor there.

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  11. The debate was more nuanced than the opinions and comments by people who weren't there might suggest. Some of your points, Curmudgeon, as well as many of those in the comments below your post, were made during the debate.

    I thought the motion was badly worded. It said CAMRA shouldn't advertise supermarkets. As far as I know, CAMRA has never actually advertised supermarkets, but it may well have accepted adverts from them in the past. The two phrases do not mean exactly the same thing. People writing motions to formulate policy should take rather more care over the wording. If it's in any way ambiguous, almost inevitably someone will take it the way it wasn't intended.

    For info, I voted against, partly because of its lack of clarity.

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