NI Pub Trade Resilient but facing Critical 12 Months Ahead

25 March 2010

PRESS RELEASE Survey Reveals State of the Sector:

Confidence in business performance remains low amongst publicans in the licensed trade as the industry faces an uncertain twelve months ahead, according to the latest annual survey by the Federation of the Retail Licensed Trade (FRLT) of its members across Northern Ireland. The research reveals that the difficulties experienced by the pub trade last year was greater than predicted when the FRLT last carried out its survey in 2009, with 44 per cent laying off staff compared to 24 per cent who had expected to and 83 per cent reducing staff hours in contrast to the 60 per cent who had anticipated introducing such measures. The proportion of members stating that the economic climate is having a serious impact on their business also increased to 70 percent, compared to 40 per cent last year. Announcing the findings, Colin Neill, Chief Executive of the FRLT, said: �The pub trade plays a vital role in our economy, contributing �1 billion annually and employing over 34,000 people. It�s certainly a testament to the Northern Ireland pub trade that many publicans have shown a great degree of resilience over the past 18 months despite facing a number of negative factors, over and above the economic climate, including reduced margins, increased overheads and further changes in regulation. However, these jobs are in serious jeopardy and urgent action needs to be taken to halt this decline as the trade faces a critical twelve months ahead.� Competition from below cost supermarket pricing was highlighted by 70% of publicans as the issue of greatest concern in the year ahead. Additional findings also revealed that one in every twenty pubs across Northern Ireland expects to have to close by the end of the year, which could result in the closure of around 100 local pubs. 22 per cent of publicans surveyed expect further staff lay offs in the coming year, with 57 per cent expecting to reduce staff working hours again. Mr. Neill called on local political representatives to take stock of the research and to work with the industry to ensure that local pubs and the jobs of those who work in them are saved. �At the present time 61 per cent of publicans feel the Northern Ireland Executive and Assembly are not supportive of the trade and at a local level we would urge the government to review rates and push forward the current proposals to introduce minimum pricing to curb the below cost selling of alcohol by the supermarket multiples. At a national level there is still of course more work to do as the UK Government has proven in recent years that it views the alcohol industry as an easy source of revenue. In the past two years the duty on alcohol has been raised by 20 per cent and we anticipate a further two per cent increase in the budget this week which will further reduce margins.� added Mr. Neill. The FRLT will be hosting this years� United Kingdom and Ireland Licensed Trade Association (UKILTA) meeting in April which will be bring together all of the counterpart licensed trade representatives from other jurisdictions. Developing a united working lobby to represent the pub trade on minimum pricing, Government regulation and taxation levels will be one of the main objectives of this years� event. ENDS