Scottish & Newcastle, the UK's biggest brewer, is reporting that it will suffer because of the ban on smoking in pubs - but is that really the case?
The ban on smoking in public places in England this summer will contribute to falling beer sales across the country, with the number of pints of beer served in UK pubs and bars dropping by an estimated 8%, according to the nation's biggest brewer, Scottish & Newcastle...It could be that there is actually a shift in purchasing patterns. The article goes on to note that the brewers brands were up by 7.1% in the supermarket-dominated off-trade but that profit margins in these sales are lower. No wonder: "The cost of a pint of S+N's Foster's lager is 66p in supermarket multi-packs, compared with 2.25 in a pub." This reminded me of the stat Ken Wells notes in his book "Travels with Barley" that bar bought beer in the US has gone from 75% of all sales to 25% over roughly the last 20 years. Price (and maybe better cable TV choices at home) has got to play a part in that.
It is true that some UK pubs are not doing well. CAMRA reported last week that 56 pubs are closing in the UK each week now - even though there is no smoking ban yet in England. It is also interesting to note in Scotland - which brought in the ban about a year ago - that claims of reduced sales and pub closures are now being blamed on that land's smoking ban...even though there is evidence of a small boom in pub sales early on after the ban came in, not to mention increased sales during the 2006 holiday season...not to mention an improved attitude to the Scottish pub since the ban.
Could it be that deflecting blame for some of the anticipated losses in pub sales due to a cultural shift is being pinned on smoking to stem the tide through keeping the more profitable pub - as opposed to the difference in the price of beer - in the mind of the public? And could it even be that other more entrepreneurial pubs instead see an opportunity in this situation? We in Ontario went through this a few years ago as has New York State. I should dig up more stats on sales changes but have to note that there has not been wholesale closures doomsters claimed there would be. And there are more families like mine now in the pub for a meal.