Britons Bought 60.2 Million Fewer Beer Pints in First Quarter

U.K. drinkers bought 60.2 million fewer pints of beer in the first three months of 2011 as they cut back spending in shops and supermarkets, according to an industry group.

Beer purchases fell 3.8 percent to 5.32 million barrels from 5.52 million a year earlier, the British Beer and Pub Association said in an e-mailed statement. A barrel holds 164 liters of beer, or 288 pints, according to the London-based BBPA.

Sales in the “on-trade,” or in pubs and bars, slid 3.8 percent, the same rate of decline as at supermarkets and shops, or the “off-trade,” the BBPA said. On-trade sales declined at a slower pace than last year’s 8.8 percent decline, whereas shop sales fell from a 0.9 percent increase last year.

Beer sales “are still fragile,” Brigid Simmonds, the BBPA’s chief executive officer, said in the statement. Second- quarter sales may be helped by public holidays, including for the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton, and sunny weather, the BBPA said, even as beer prices rise due to a tax increase levied in this year’s U.K. budget.

The BBPA represents the U.K. brewing and pub industry. Its members account for 96 percent of the beer brewed in the country and nearly two-thirds of Britain’s 52,500 pubs, it said.

To contact the reporter on this story: Clementine Fletcher in London cfletcher5@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Celeste Perri at cperri@bloomberg.net.

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