Thursday 9 November 2017

Overdoing the gloom

There’s been a lot of discussion about this story reporting a shock 3.6% fall in pub beer sales compared with the same quarter last year. However, quarterly figures are inevitably subject to fluctuations, and in fact the previous quarter had only shown a fall of 0.2%.

The British Beer and Pub Association have now released the detailed figures behind these statistics – see the link on this page. The annual fall, which gives a more balanced picture, is 2.5%, which obviously is nothing to celebrate, but broadly in line with the average over the previous five years. Possibly the forthcoming Budget might have encouraged the BBPA to indulge in a little scaremongering. Of course beer duty should be frozen, if not cut, but there’s no sudden crisis.

In fact, the overall beer market has increased by 0.2% over the past twelve months, with the off-trade recording a 2.8% increase. It now accounts for 52.7% of all beer sales, so the tipping point when it exceeds the on-trade is long gone.

If you look at the quarterly falls in on-trade sales over time, by far the biggest was 10.3% between the second quarters of 2007 and 2008. I can’t for the life of me think what might have happened in the meantime to affect the figures to such an extent...


  1. 2007/08 you say ? Why, that would have been the time a large of number of elephants escaped into pubs, blocking the way to the bar.

  2. just a shame in 2007-08 the biggest global financial crisis and credit crunch since the 1930s was happening as well at the same time and the UK economy is estimated to have lost hundreds of billions if not trillions of pounds, or you might have been on to a link there ;)

  3. Except that the global financial crisis didn't really kick in until the collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008. But, apart from that, your theory is fine.

    1. Don't people traditionally turn to drink, not away from it, in hard times?

    2. Well, no, broadly speaking alcohol consumption, especially in pubs, tends to go hand-in-hand with the general health of the economy. But if it were true, it would further reinforce my argument.

  4. I read an article on Martyn Cornell’s Zythophile blog about pub closures; unfortunately, despite searching, I cannot find it again. In it I am sure he said that pubs had been fairly resilient to downturns in the economy.

    Quoting from a different article of his,

    “The First World War and after saw pub numbers continue to fall at a rate of more than a dozen a
    week, so that by 1930 there were 77,300 left. During the 1930s the rate of closure slowed to eight a
    week, leaving 73,600 pubs in 1939.”

    So pubs were fairly resilient to downturns in the economy. What I think is different now is the increased and cheaper off trade and the greater comfort and entertainment opportunities at home.


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