Pubs failing in three key areas'

Related tags High street Need Want Public house

by Andrew Pring The pub trade is failing to give customers enough of what they really want ­ food, friendliness and fun. That was one of the themes...

by Andrew Pring

The pub trade is failing to give customers enough of what they really want ­ food, friendliness and fun. That was one of the themes to emerge from a conference last week entitled Key Issues for Licensed Retail 2005 organised by Martin Information, a sister company to the Morning Advertiser.

Noel Reidy, of research group Harris International Marketing, suggested the on-trade missed at least three opportunities each month to capitalise on customers' casual dining needs. As a result, they were instead eating at places like Pret A Manger or McDonald's. And when they visited pubs, they were dissatisfied and were spending less than they had told researchers at the start of an evening that they were likely to spend.

Reidy's research also pointed to a mismatch between what staff think customers most want ­ good prices ­ and what they actually most want ­ friendliness. "The industry could improve sales by 10% if they could consistently meet customers' needs," he said.

That finding was supported by Martin Hayward, director of consumer strategy and futures at the consultancy Dunnhumby. He claimed consumers were bored by materialism and were now looking for "real" experiences ­ occasions when they can enjoy themselves in a quality environment and satisfy their wants, rather than their needs.

"People will pay well for any retail operator who can make it real again'," he said. But unfortunately, he added, these insights are often not registering with organisations as so few take research seriously. To succeedin modern retailing and reconnect with customers, "research should be at the heart of every organisation".

Kevin Mulcahey of TNS Consumer, which, amongst other things, studies consumer drinking habits, argued the notion of "binge Britain" is a myth. His research showed that alcohol is not as popular as it was; that nearly one in five adults don't drink; people are not visiting the pub as often as they used to, particularly young men; and perhaps most surprisingly of all, the trend is away from heavy-drinking occasions, even amongst the young.

This is particularly true in the high street, which is consistently losing share of visits, occasions and volume.

The only trend Mulcahey identified which tallied with the media's depiction of a bingeing nation was amongst young women, whose consumption in the high street is up 20% in the past three years. But he argued that young women have become more active in all economic markets, so this was unsurprising. And he said social commentators were wrong to blame alcohol solely for problems associated with the high street. Attitudes amongst young people were at least as much to blame.

Mulcahey concluded that the trade needs to raise its game if it is to correct the misconceptions about bingeing that have taken root in popular imagination.

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