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Pub closures: is the worst over?

I was at a presentation the other day by CGA strategy, the company who does all the market stats for the UK on-trade market.  Over the past couple of years, when you’ve seen grim headlines about the number of pubs closing every week, it’s been based on their figures.

Enough already.

Well, perhaps I’ve been too busy, or maybe it’s because good news never tends to get as much coverage as bad news, I seem to have missed their latest figures, whenever they came out.  But while pubs are still closing at a depressing rate, it does seem as the the worst might be over – and the closure rate is falling faster than CGA had forecast.

They calculate the figure every six months, and the trend is as follows:

June 08 to December 08 – 39 net pub closures every week
December 08 to June 09 – 52 pub closures a week – the figure that really hit the headlines
June 09 to December 09 – 39 closures a week
December 09 to June 10 – 29 closures a week

As I said, 29 pubs every week is still a shocking rate of decline.  We’re losing about five per cent of Britain’s pubs in less than a decade.  But it has fallen by almost half in a year.

CGA reckon that the pubs that are closing are those that didn’t adapt to suit changing needs in the recession.  That may be too much of a generalisation, but they’re probably right when they say the pubs left behind may be smaller in number, but will be stronger.  They reckon proper recovery in the pub market will begin in 2013.

Another interesting stat is what happens to those closed down pubs?  Property company Christies says that 60% of the boarded-up pubs they sell on eventually reopen as pubs.  That will be included in CGA’s net figure.  But it does show that there is still some dynamism in the pub market.  Both the Jolly Butchers and Cask and Kitchen were failed pubs before they were taken over and relaunched as craft beer pubs.

So – hardly joyous tidings to shout from the rooftops.  But as I’ve always maintained, reports of ‘the death of the pub’ are greatly exaggerated.



Ghost Drinker

I've heard a lot about the closing of hundreds of pubs across the country, but I think it's quite hard to see unless you go looking for it. Coming from Leeds I've seen a few pubs which have gone under, and in all honesty, I'm not surprised. They were pubs which I'd be loathed to frequent, they were not nice places to drink. Should we care of closures such as these?? I'm not sure. Getting rid of old pubs, after-all, makes room for new pubs. Someone should do a report on how many new pubs are opening, we've just got two new MTT's one of which used to be an old unloved pub. I'm all up for supporting local businesses and pubs, but I need a reason to go back for that second drink.


Someone should do a report on how many new pubs are opening

GD – all the figures Pete cited are net closures, i.e. closures minus new pubs. So the answer is "not enough"!


Look at the BBPA figures for on-trade beer consumption, which are showing a steady annual decline of 6-8%, and are 44% down on 1997. That rate of decline will halve total sales in ten years, and there's no sign of it abating. There has not been a year-on-year rise in any quarter covered by that series of stats.

Of course it is possible for some pubs to do well in a declining market, but there are very few grounds for optimism regarding the market as a whole. In Stockport, four big prominent pubs have closed in the past few months, and another just over the Manchester border is being flogged off by its owners on the grounds of unviability.

John McNally

It's always sad to see a pub close, but I've noticed that the ones that have, were badly run, serving rubbish beer, or no real ale at all.

Good pubs and good beer will always survive. Quality will out.



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