Pubs risk losing trade to home drinking over the key Christmas trading period as supermarkets are heavily discounting alcohol to draw in customers.
Competition among the big grocery players is fiercer than ever and they are pushing huge discounts on leading beer brands as well as wine and spirits.
As with the summer heatwave, when deep discounts on beer were used by supermarkets to drive sales of barbecue food, pubs will have to work overtime to convince customers that Christmas at their local is a more festive option than entertaining at home.
Tony Payne, chief executive of the Federation of Licensed Victuallers' Association, said: "Supermarket prices do have an impact on pub sales. You only have to look at the trolleys piled high with drink to see what pubs are up against this year.
"Many people only go to the pub with colleagues or to meet friends at Christmas. It's a key opportunity for pubs to show customers what they're missing and build trade through the year. We're advising pubs to market their offer very hard in order to compete."
Rick Robinson, licensee of the Willoughby Arms in Kingston, Surrey, said: "You must accept that if people want to have a party at home, or have a drink because granny's coming round to watch Only Fools & Horses, they will. What you can do is make sure that those who come to the pub have the best time."
However brand owners argue that off-trade discounts are having little effect on pub sales. Steve Cahillane, the newly-appointed chief executive of Interbrew UK, recently told The Publican: "I think the pricing differential is almost a non-issue. A pub is a totally different experience."
A spokeswoman for Sainsbury's, which is featuring a half-price offer on cases of Kronenbourg as part of its Christmas TV advertising, said that drinks deals were important, but that discounting this year was running at usual levels.
A selection of the Christmas discounts on offer at supermarket:
- Iceland: 24x275ml bottles of Stella Artois for £9.99
- Asda: Grolsch 10-pack of 440ml cans £7.84
- Morrisons: John Smiths Bitter eight 440ml cans £5
- Sainsbury's: Mix and match four 500ml bottles of Old Speckled Hen, Old Empire, Old Peculiar and Bishops Finger for £5