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25-11-2011, 10:24
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Reports from Scotland show a 14% fall in volumes of beer sold in the off-trade (http://www.offlicencenews.co.uk/news/fullstory.php/aid/12534/Multibuy_ban_batters_beer.html) following the Scottish government’s banning of multibuy discounts from 1 October. Obviously one month’s figures are not enough to establish a trend, and it is likely there was some element of stocking-up at the end of September. Part of the reduction is also probably attributable to the fact that the effective average price of beer rose, rather than simply multibuys encouraging people to buy more than they otherwise would. The supermarkets may also welcome the opportunity to increase their margins, as big-pack multibuys, while rarely sold at an actual loss, were often heavily discounted as a tool to get customers to visit one particular shop rather than a competitor.

Over time, the retailers will no doubt work out what combination of pack sizes and price points work best under the new regime to maximise sales, and it will be interesting to see what the figures look like over a full year. As I understand it, while you can’t sell two of something for less than twice the price of one, you don’t have to sell all pack sizes of the same product exactly pro-rata, so there’s nothing to stop you selling 4x500ml cans of Carling for £3.99, and a multipack of 10x440ml cans for £7.99.

It’s not something that would greatly bother me personally, and if Morrisons started selling single bottles for £1.39 rather than 4 for £5.50 I doubt whether I’d buy any less. But it’s another small salami slice of restriction imposed on the drinks trade, and it’s the direction of travel that should concern anyone interested in the brewing industry.

It also must be questioned whether, at a time of a flatlining economy and rising unemployment, reducing the revenues of a substantial business sector by 14% as a result of government action is really a sensible thing to do.

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