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2013 - a turning point for the industry

On 20/12/13 by Brigid Simmonds (Chief Executive)

As featured in On-trade Review

I hope we look back on 2013 as a turning point for the industry. While trading conditions remain a challenge, we have had successes which put us in a far better place that we had dared to hope at the start of the year.

Let me begin with beer duty. There is no doubt that the abolition of the beer duty escalator, and the cut in beer duty in the March Budget was an astonishing success for all those who campaigned so tirelessly for many years. It was also a great tribute to joined-up campaigning in the trade, with huge support and expertise, not least from CAMRA, but from a large number of organisations and individuals in the supply chain who contributed to this success.

Let’s not forget the impact. The two per cent cut means that beer duty is now seven per cent lower than it was due to be this year. Furthermore, we face no automatic, above inflation increase in 2014. The challenge now and in 2014 is to keep campaigning, highlighting the benefits of the cut - on confidence, on investment, and on employment in the sector.

We are already doing just that. We have published a six month review of the positive impact, and have already begun a campaign for a duty freeze in the 2014 Budget. It is vital that the whole industry keeps up the pressure.

Maintaining volumes for beer in the home market remains a challenge, especially in the on-trade. However, we are now witnessing unprecedented investment in the beer category as a whole, with the Launch of the Let There Be Beer campaign.

Let There Be Beer, with its TV advertising and high-profile campaign, is one of the most significant investments in British beer in many decades. Opportunities for on-trade participation in the campaign will grow, and I believe that by 2014 will see the campaign bringing real benefits to the whole beer category.

At the BBPA, we have also worked hard to position beer and pubs at the heart of the UK tourism offer – with considerable success this year, with the launch of the Pubs are GREAT, and Heritage is Great strands of the high-impact Britain is GREAT campaign – the latter now features British beers in its poster campaign.

On pubs, there is now a different mood in Government when it comes to seeing the trade as central to the UK tourism industry, both in terms of attracting overseas visitors, and seeing pubs as central to the domestic tourism trade. In 2013, we should see the full impact, as this campaign gathers pace.

Despite the challenges, the pub trade is seeing other really positive developments. The focus on professionalism and training is something I see as key to future success. UK plc needs more apprenticeships and a step change in attitudes when it comes to seeing work in the pub trade as a highly-skilled career choice. The Government is aware of the need for action and we will see more positive partnerships when it comes to establishing these opportunities in the trade.

Of course. we will continue to face challenges in 2014, when it comes to attempts to over-regulate the trade. The Government’s localism agenda, while a good thing in itself, was always going to raise issues, in terms of local authorities and police forces attempting to over-regulate their local pub trade, often to the detriment of local economies as well as the trade itself.

In 2014, we will continue to oppose individual authorities in the efforts to implement costly late night levies and early morning restriction orders. There is currently a mixed picture. While there is no doubt considerable interest in using these new measures, many authorities are retreating from the proposals once they realise the damaging effect they can have on local businesses – often thanks to well argued interventions from the trade, putting the arguments forward on a case-by-case basis.

To resist moves in this direction, we will also have to step up to the plate when it comes to partnership working. We must work hard to persuade local authorities that this is the best way to improve town centres.

Despite these challenges, I am optimistic. The Government has made significant moves to improve confidence in the trade. The pubs minister, Brandon Lewis, has proved receptive to our concerns. With competing priorities within Government, he won’t win every battle, but he is someone who can successfully champion pubs. He has also now taken on responsibility for the Government’s policies in relation to the renewal of our high streets. This is an area where pubs can and should play a crucial role, and it is all to the good that these responsibilities are now being brought together.

There is much to look forward to in 2014.


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