Slowdown in decline in beer sales in pubs and bars

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The decline in beer sales in pubs and bars is starting to slow down as overall sales show their first rise in a decade, according to new figures from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

Its Beer Barometer showed only a small decline of 0.8% in on-trade beer sales in 2014, but this was the smallest decline in sales since 1996. However, with off-trade sales up 3.5%, total UK beer sales showed an increase of 1.3%.

This followed nine consecutive years of decline, which saw beer sales slide by 24% – 6.7million fewer pints sold per day. Last year’s improvement follows two cuts in beer duty by the Chancellor.

The BBPA said that the declines of the past decade were due to huge tax rises, with beer duty increasing by 42% from 2008 to 2013 under the beer tax “escalator”. This meant that beer duty was automatically increased by 2% above inflation every single year.

It sent duty, plus the VAT on the duty, from 42p to 65p on a typical pint. Over this same period, 7,000 pubs closed, with 58,000 jobs lost.

With taxes still much higher than they were a decade ago, the BBPA is leading calls for beer duty cuts in the Budget on March 18.

BBPA chief executive Brigid Simmonds said: “British beer is back in growth – and we want to keep it that way. But with 70% 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- to 24-year-olds. That has got to be good news.”

Enterprise Inns, the UK’s largest leased and tenanted pub company, is urging its licensees to write letters or emails to their local MPs calling for beer duty cuts and to spread the word via social media, including Twitter and Facebook.

The company itself has already written to MPs in constituencies in and around its Solihull headquarters. Chief executive Simon Townsend said: “Beer duty is now 13% lower than under the tax rises previously planned. This has resulted in millions of extra investment in Britain’s breweries and pubs and has boosted jobs in our sector by more than 16,000.

“The tax cuts were not easily won. It took tens of thousands of individual actions and contacts with MPs, lasting for several years, in which BBPA members played a major part, which is why we need to keep the pressure up for a beer duty cut or freeze in the Budget on 18 March. It’s vital if the publicans we partner are to run successful businesses.”

In a statement, leading brewer Molson Coors said: “Today’s news that beer sales are up for the first time in 10 years is an encouraging sign for our industry.

“The successive duty cuts have not only given a much-needed boost to beer drinkers across the UK but have helped the wider industry benefit from extra investments – including over 16,000 new jobs created within the sector.”

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