Bloomberg News

U.K. Beer Sales Drop Least in Five Years on Fewer Pub Closures

January 23, 2012

Jan. 23 (Bloomberg) -- U.K. beer sales declined the least in five years in 2011 as fewer pub closures offset the steepest decline in sales at supermarkets in more than a decade.

The volume of beer sold fell 3.5 percent to 26 million barrels, after 2010’s 3.8 percent drop, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. That’s 275.3 million pints, or 956,000 barrels, fewer than in 2010, Bloomberg calculations show.

So-called off-trade sales, or the amount of beer sold by stores, declined 3.7 percent after rising 0.7 percent in 2010, the association said. The drop was the steepest since at least 1998. Sales in pubs and bars, which represented 53 percent of beer purchases, fell 3.4 percent, the least since 2004.

Government cuts to address a record budget deficit and weak consumer confidence are weighing on beer sales, as is increased competition from wine and spirits. Beer sales support about 1 million jobs and generate more than 8 billion pounds ($12.4 billion) in tax revenue, according to the BBPA.

A barrel holds 164 liters of beer, or 288 pints, according to the London-based BBPA, which represents the U.K. brewing and pub industry. Its members account for 96 percent of beer brewed in the country and about half of Britain’s 51,500 pubs.

--Editors: Paul Jarvis, Robert Valpuesta.

To contact the reporter on this story: Clementine Fletcher in London

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Sara Marley at

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