British beer sales declined in the first quarter

Alys Key
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Sales could pick up as the World Cup rolls around (Source: Getty)

British beer sales fell in the first quarter of 2018, returning to decline after a burst of popularity last year.

Sales fell 1.7 per cent in the three months to March, though this was against a tough comparaitve of 3.4 per cent in the first quarter of 2017. Last year's rise marked the first time the industry has seen an increase in first-quarter beer sales since 2004.

According to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), the decrease in trade at the beginning of this year affected both retailers and pubs.

On-trade sales, which take place in pubs or bars, were down 1.9 per cent, while off-trade sales, which take place in shops, fell 1.5 per cent.

“Beer sales experienced another fall at the beginning of the year and the industry will be hoping for better prospects this summer, especially as the FIFA World Cup will be a big draw to the pub," said Brigid Simmonds OBE, BBPA's chief executive.

"What’s still needed is a continued focus from the Government to reduce the tax burden on beer and pubs to ensure their success in the future.”

Last year beer duty increased in the March budget, but the tax was frozen in the Autumn statement.

The first quarter of this year was particularly difficult for pubs, as the poor weather reduced footfall.

Read more: London pubs hit by closures as campaigners call for tax breaks

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