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BBPA chief executive Simmonds: calls on government to address issues concerning country's pubs and bars following further decline in on-trade beer sales

UK beer sales rise in 2017

There is a modicum of joy for the United Kingdom’s brewers in the latest industry sales figures. The British Beer and Pub Association reported today a 0.7% rise in beer sales during 2017.

But the underlying long-term trends – growth in the off-trade offset by decline in the on-trade, the country’s pubs and bars – remained constant.

For the 12-month period ending in December the BBPA reported that sales totalled 26.9 million brewer’s barrels (44.1 million hectolitres).

Sales in the off-trade, primarily in UK supermarkets, rose by 3.6% to 14.3 million barrels (23.4mhl). It marks the fifth consecutive that beer sales have increased in the UK off-trade.

Against this was a further drop in beer sales in the country’s pubs, down 2.4% to 12.6 million barrels (20.7mhl). The result for 2017 was consistent with those of the previous two years, but it was also consistent with a long-term decline in on-trade sales, with an increase yet to be reported during this century.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds was quick to point the finger of blame at the burden of beer duty on the country’s brewers. Following three modest penny a pint tax cuts during 2013-2015 and a duty freeze in 2016, there was a 3.9% increase in March 2017. (A freeze on beer duty was announced in the most recent budget, in autumn 2017.)

“Whilst it is encouraging to see beer sales rise slightly in 2017, it is still hugely concerning to see on-trade sales for the seventh year in a row,” said Simmonds. “This shows just how important the decision to freeze beer duty in the Autumn Budget was, particularly after an inflation-busting 3.9 per cent rise in the Spring Budget. Cutting beer duty is hugely important to community pus where on average 70 per cent of alcohol sold is beer.”

There are other factors impinging on the fortunes of pubs. The BBPA also noted business rate increases and “sharply rising” employment costs, as well as a continuing issue with consumer confidence.

Simmonds called on the government to take further steps to freeze or reduce beer duty and to tackle the disproportionate business rates being paid by publicans.

Larry Nelson
7th February 2018

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