This trend is perfectly understandable. It is really a matter of simple economics.
As the recession bites harder and more people lose their jobs, and as the average real wage falls while the prices of goods and services continue to rise, the average person has less and less disposable income, after paying for the essential things in life.
People must have entertainment and enjoyment, but the money for that is at the very end of the use-of-funds decision-making process. So people, naturally, look to get maximum value for money from their limited available resources.
We all know that the gap between pub and supermarket prices constantly increases.
We all know where this has led and continues to lead; more drinking at home, including pre-loading, with drink bought primarily from supermarkets (off-licences are disappearing as they can’t compete with supermarkets either); and more drinking in cheap-booze pubs and pubs fighting for survival with cheap booze deals.
Most pub operators simply can’t compete on price with these types of businesses.
The Government won’t do anything about the supermarkets. If you are a tenant or lessee of a tied pubco pub, you are generally in real trouble. People should not accept the bleatings in the press that price isn’t everything and every licensee should be able to make a decent living (as opposed to being a wage slave).
If you can’t buy the products you sell for the price the supermarkets and free-of-tie pub operators are selling them for, you need to be more than a marketing genius to survive. Which many licensees aren’t. And that’s not their fault.
And what can the embattled licensee actually do to fight the competition, after using his or her marketing and cost-cutting skills as much as possible? Nothing, really.
The best lifeline I can see, at national level, is minimum pricing. Forget all the rubbish about changing social behaviour. We desperately need minimum pricing, at as high a level as possible. And we need restrictions on the operation of alcohol promotions in supermarkets.
You can only tighten your belt so much.