Pubs suffer sharpest beer sales drop for more than two years

BRITISH pubs have seen their worst fall in quarterly beer sales for more than two years, thanks to unusually cold weather at the start of the year.

Figures released today from the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA) show that beer sales in pubs and clubs – the so-called on-trade businesses – were down 5.5 per cent year-on-year in the first three months of 2013, which was the biggest decline seen since the final quarter of 2010.

Meanwhile, beer sales in off-trade businesses, such as supermarkets and off-licences, were up 0.1 per cent.

If pub sales continue to fall, off-trade sales could overtake on-trade in the next few months. At 3m barrels’ worth of beer, on-trade sales are narrowly above the 2.6m barrels’ worth from off-trade, with combined sales down 2.9 per cent down on last year.

A decade ago, on-trade sales were 4.9m barrels, with off-trade under half of that at 2.1m barrels.

The BBPA said recent changes, such as the cut in beer duty announced in the Budget, would give the pub industry a much-needed shot in the arm.