Time for change: an open letter to Bob Ivell

By The PMA Team

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Retailing Bbpa

Appeal: Paul Charity thinks M&B should join the ALMR
Appeal: Paul Charity thinks M&B should join the ALMR
Dear Bob, I trust you’re well. Welcome back to the pub trade. You will have noticed that right now our industry’s collective voice is as fragmented as ever. I know there have been a few distractions at Mitchells & Butlers (M&B), Bob, but things need to change.

There needs to be a clear, strong voice for licensed retail. As a major sector employer you need to support a trade body that speaks up on behalf of those that retail (and only retail) within the hospitality sector.

The obvious body is the Association of Licensed Multiple Retailers (ALMR). Right now it is has around 95 operator members, but it is still underweight because some of the obvious people, like your company, haven’t (unfathomably) joined.

It’s an organisation that has its own challenges, not least the need to broaden out from purely pub-operator members to add restaurant and food service operators. (A name change might be required too.) But it’s having quite a bit of early success — TGI Friday’s joined in the past year.

And the new sizeable companies that have emerged recently have looked at this rationally and decided the ALMR must get their vote — Stonegate Pub Company, for example, has joined and Spirit, with its 800-plus managed pubs has made the move across from the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA) after its de-merger from Punch. Oh, and I understand JD Wetherspoon, after years on the sidelines, is joining as well.

The licensed retail industry is suffering multiple threats from damaging, wrong-headed tax and cost increases — the suggested PPL hikes are just one particularly worrying example of this.

I regret to say that the BBPA is no longer fit for (our) purpose. Not the fault of its executives, but more to do with trying to represent the interests of members whose priorities are not completely aligned any more. It’s also, you’ll know, caught up in the on-going pubco and tenant relationship furore, which, while important, is a huge distraction from the main job of companies such as M&B — ensuring you offer your customers value (not least by persuading Government that a jobs-friendly tax regime makes sense).

The biggest single threat to our great industry is the different treatment of food in VAT terms between supermarkets and pubs and other eating-out places. If this isn’t addressed, I believe the future will be very, very difficult.

At the moment eating out offers relative value to eating in. But this vastly different VAT treatment puts this value-position under extreme pressure. You will know what is at stake here — it’s the future of M&B and everybody in the sector no less.

Your natural allies are everybody else battling to stay competitive in the eating-out market (including, of course, every single licensee reader of this magazine).

At the moment, industry lobbying is easy to dismiss. Your 40,000 employees need you to add your voice to the right trade body so that this changes. Sorry to buttonhole and good luck with finding a chief executive,


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