Sunday, 22 August 2010

The On-trade going Off?

The Institute of Alcohol Studies have recently released their 'Drinking In Great Britain Factsheet' an in depth look at alcohol consumption, pricing and units for the UK and it makes for interesting and in places startling reading, it shows alcohol consumption in the UK is FALLING regardless of what some quarters would have you believe and more worryingly that alcohol consumption in the On-trade is in marked decline whilst Off-trade sales remain broadly unchanged.

*Source 'Insitiute for Alcohol Studies'
As you can see above there is a stepped decline in On-trade alcohol consumption & for England & Wales at least, Off-trade alcohol sales remain steady (Scotland seem to be swapping the pub for drinking at home at an alarming rate), there could be a variety of causal factors for England & Wales' figures, it could be that we are drinking more low abv. alcohol products at the pub i.e 'Session Beers' or that hikes in alcohol prices in the On-trade are due to external pressures like inflation & decreasing footfall. When we take into account the price per unit of alcohol from 2005 to 2009 the figures would argue that prices per unit in the On-trade are directly responsible for the decreasing volumes in the On-trade.
*Source 'Institute for Alcohol Studies'
During the increases in alcohol unit prices in the On-trade you will see that Off-trade unit prices have remained almost unchanged, now this is where we get to the crux of the issue, are the Off-trade unit prices we see unchanged due to the Off-trade artificially holding them lower i.e large volume cheap supermarket alcohol  or does the trend show that operational costs of the On-trade have increased so highly as to force their hand on pricing?

Either way the gap is widening worryingly, for me this means the poor pubs & bars alike have to 'up' their games and make sure they don't unduly hike prices &  make sure that the pub offers added value, this can include quality of 'cask products' that have condition and correct serving temp, correct glassware that is immaculately clean, knowledgeable staff, cleanliness of premises the list goes on... Tandleman is a stickler for all of these and rightly so!

I applaud the many top outlets that get it right time and time again but there are still pubs out there that are flattering to deceive.

There have been recent examples of poor pub experiences that demonstrate my point in the blogosphere here and here.

After all the wider the difference in price the more picky the customer will become about the pub & they will be less & less tolerant when they get it wrong. The On-trade must up their game to make sure that they meet their punters demand for quality or they may lose them to home drinking forever, this is the harsh reality that pub operators really need to wake up to, it is easy to point fingers at ridiculously cheap alcohol which granted is a contributing factor but there is an old saying 'people in glass houses shouldn't throw stones' get your own house in order and lets take it from there..

Only then can we hopefully arrest this decline in On-trade sales before too many of our national treasures are lost forever!

Do these figures also forward a case for minimum pricing? It wouldn't affect the On-trade and would close the gap between On & Off trade pricing, the jury is still out in this but take a look at the report and draw your own conclusions.

1 comment:

Peter O'Connor said...

I don't know if minimum pricing is required, but a narrowing in on and off trade pricing is certainly required. Furthermore, the tendencies of those interested in the on-trade to ignore the off trade, to shun them and to disengage, has done little to help improve the quality of product available ion the off trade.

Regarding pricing, supermarkets are not the worst offenders. Off licences selling 6 cans of Stella for £5, among other lagers, severely undercut the on trade as well.

The on trade needs to be able to cut prices, as well as the off trade's too increase. Pubs have to up their games massively as well. Lastly, the truth in the matter is that larger premises will survive much more easily, given the smaller differences between overheads and sales.

So, my summary? Hammer the off trade, scrap the tie. Give the on-trade something a break price wise. Then, the pub as community factor has to be stressed, and stressed and stressed again. Offer something different, something social, products you can't buy off.

It's competition, if the on-trade got a little more help, and the off a little less, these figures would be far healthier.

Oh, and the initial point- just goes to show that media scaremongering is really that. Sheesh!