Supermarkets dominate market

Beer sales up for first time in a decade

Beer BelhavenGood and bad news for Britain’s pubs. Beer sales are up for the first time in ten years, but more is being sold in supermarkets than in the local.

In fact, the sale of beer in pubs fell by 0.8% while the 1.3% overall rise has come from supermarkets and off-licences.

Even so, the decline in pub sales is the smallest since 1996, giving some relief to the industry.

The contribution of the supermarkets, however, is likely to be another spur to those like Tim Martin, chairman of pub chain Wetherspoons, who has complained for years that they enjoy a tax advantage over pubs.

The British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) attributed at least some of the improvement to cuts in beer duty in the last two Budgets, although drinkers last year doubted that the 1p a pint cut would make any difference. Inevitably, the BBPA has called for a further cut in this year’s Budget.

While the improvement is small, any upturn will be a relief after a decade which has see beer sales slide by 24%.

The BBPA said the “disastrous” beer tax escalator, which was abolished two years ago, duty including VAT increased from 42p to 65p on a typical pint.

It has made a direct correlation between the effects of the extra duty and 7,000 pubs closing and 58,000 jobs lost since the escalator was introduced in 2008.

BBPA Chief Executive Brigid Simmonds said: “British beer is back in growth – and we want to keep it that way. But with 70 per cent of pub drink sales being beer, the picture for our much loved pubs is still fragile.

“That is why another duty cut from the Chancellor is vital. It will build on the success of two very popular tax cuts in the past two years, and boost jobs in an industry that employs 900,000 people, almost half of whom are 16-24 year olds.”

A spokesman for the Campaign for Real Ale said: “It is fantastic to see overall beer sales back in growth for the first time in 10 years, but it is vitally important that beer sales in pubs move back into growth too.”

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