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77% of NI pubs experienced sales slump in past year

Over two-thirds of pubs in Northern Ireland experienced a drop in trade over the past 12 months, according to a new survey from NI pub trade organisation Pubs of Ulster.

Trading performance was either ‘poor’ or ‘very poor’ for 43 per cent of the 1,500 pubs surveyed, compared to 17 per cent who said trade was ‘good’ or ‘very good’.

The ‘economic recession’ was cited as the reason for this by 23 per cent of respondents to the State of the Industry Survey 2011 with below-cost sales of alcohol in supermarkets being cited by 22 per cent. NI publicans claim to make only eight pence profit when a pint is priced at £3.00.

The survey reported that only 23 per cent had seen business levels increase by up to 10 per cent.

Of the rest, 16 per cent had seen trade drop 20 to 30 per cent, seven per cent had seen trade fall by 30 to 40 per cent and six per cent reported a 40 to 50 per cent slump in business.

As a result, 22 per cent of the respondents (330 pubs) reported themselves in trouble on some level with 14 per cent (210 pubs) now seeking to sell off their business. Eight per cent (120 pubs) anticipated simply closing down.

Over the past year staff layoffs have been a fact of life for 34 per cent of respondents to the survey – and 22 per cent felt that the coming year would see more redundancies while 62 per cent of them had had to reduce staff hours with 52 per cent reckoning that another reduction in hours will be necessary over the next 12 months.

Pubs of Ulster Chief Executive Colin Neill described the results as “extremely worrying”, adding, “Confidence in the current business performance of many pubs is extremely low and many publicans are only expecting an average business performance over the next 12 months.

“Whilst many publicans in Northern Ireland have proved their resilience in extremely challenging times by continuing to trade, many are now faced with difficult choices regarding the future of their business including reducing staff hours, staff lay-offs and even closure.

“Against this backdrop, Pubs of Ulster is continuing to push for change on a local and national level in order to help pubs deal with the current economic climate, reduced margins, increased overheads and further changes in regulation.

"It is clear from the findings of our survey that more needs to be done by both the Northern Ireland Assembly and the UK Government to ensure the long term survival of the industry.”

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