UK: Beer sales decline at slower rate
Published:  29 July, 2009

UK: The decline in beer sales seems to be slowing, with pub sales falling at a slower rate than supermarket sales, according to the UK Quarterly Beer Barometer published by the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).


The new figures show that UK beer sales dropped by 4.8 per cent in the second quarter of 2009.  This is less than the 8.3 per cent fall in the final quarter of 2008 and the 7.8 per cent drop in the first quarter of this year, indicating that the UK beer sector may be on the road to stabilising.

Beer sales in pubs are down 4.5 per cent compared to the second quarter in 2008. Pub beer sales fell 6.3 per cent in the first quarter of 2009 and 9.9 per cent in the last quarter of 2008.  

The 4.5 per cent fall means 4.2 million fewer pints were drunk each week in pubs during the second quarter compared with the same period in 2008.  In total, 54.6 million fewer pints were consumed in pubs in the second quarter of this year compared with last year.

Supermarkets and off-licence sales are down 5.2 per cent this quarter compared with the same quarter in 2008 – the equivalent of 4.2 million pints each week. Beer sales in supermarkets and off-licences have now fallen at a faster rate than sales in pubs for two consecutive quarters.

These latest figures are further bad news for Government tax returns.  Government tax revenues from beer for the first half of the year are estimated to be down £156 million compared with the first six months of last year.

David Long, BBPA Chief Executive, said: “Whilst welcoming a slowing of the decline in beer sales, we are wary about reading too much into these early signs. However, the new figures give some ground for cautious optimism that some speck of faint light may be appearing at the end of the tunnel.

“Consumer spending on beer remains constrained in both pubs and supermarkets. Considerable economic uncertainty remains about the short and medium term. We must therefore remain careful not to take too much from what are still disappointing figures.”

Dr Long also highlighted the potential benefits for the wider economy of growth within the beer industry.

“The British beer and pub trade employs considerable numbers of people across the country, jobs that are vital to communities everywhere. We have the potential to be a strong engine of recovery for the wider economy and deliver benefits to communities, to tourism, to jobs and to Government revenues. We urge the Government to recognise this, reflect and reconsider its current plans for a VAT increase in January and a further beer tax increases in next year’s Budget.”