UK off-trade outgrows on-trade

A 1.3% rise in beer sales in 2014 ended a decade of decline in the UK.

According to the British Beer & Pub Association the turnaround follows two historic cuts in beer duty by the British Chancellor. The figures are reported in BBPA’s latest ‘Beer Barometer’.

Nine consecutive years of decline saw beer sales slide by 24%, that’s 6.7 million fewer pints sold per day. The BBPA says that huge tax rises were the major culprit, with a beer duty hike of 42% between 2008 and 2013 under the “disastrous beer tax ‘escalator’ policy”. This sent the duty (plus the VAT on the duty) from 42p to 65p on a typical pint. During this time 7,000 pubs closed with 58,000 jobs lost, states the BBPA.

Beer sales in pubs have begun to stabilise, showing a smaller decline of 0.8% in 2014 but this was the smallest decline in sales since 1996, states the BBPA adding, “Off-trade sales grew by 3.5%, matching the growth of last year and taking off-licence and supermarket sales above on-trade sales for the first time on record.”

After years of above-inflation tax rises, beer taxes are still too high claims the BBPA, with Britons paying 40% of all EU beer duties but drinking just 12% of Europe’s beer despite beer prices in pubs being at their lowest level since the 1980s.

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

“That’s 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.”

With taxes still much higher than they were a decade ago and with beer accounting for seven in every 10 drinks bought in a pub, the BBPA is leading calls for a “much-needed hat-trick” of beer duty cuts in the UK’s 18th March Budget.


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