Diageo plans pub push to buoy on-trade sales

LONDON - Drinks giant Diageo is plotting a marketing initiative to help rejuvenate the flagging pub trade.

The activity, dubbed 'Love the Pub', is designed to increase footfall and boost pubs' appeal to a wider demographic so they are used during the day and not just in the evenings.

It follows a grass-roots campaign by Stella Artois owner InBev called 'Love Your Local', which ran from July to October in London pubs this year and featured actor and landlord Jason Flemyng. The activity was designed to highlight the role pubs have in promoting community spirit and responsible enjoyment.

The brewers and pub trade are facing unprecedented pressure; according to the British Beer and Pub Association (BBPA), pubs are currently closing at a rate of 36 a week.

Between July and September this year, the on-trade sector sold 104m fewer pints than in the same quarter in 2007, which represented the biggest third-quarter fall in a decade. Off-trade figures for 2008, however, are at a 10-year high, with year-on-year sales from June to September up by 2.1%.

The pub trade faces further uncertainty as the government announced last month that alcohol duty will increase by 8%. This would push the cost of a pint up further, placing the average price at more than £3; almost £4 for Londoners.

The rise in duty has led the BBPA to launch a 'Save the Pub' campaign, with the support of former Brookside actress Jennifer Ellison. Campaigners say that combined with plummeting beer sales, the increase could lead to the closure of 7500 UK pubs.

Philip Almond, marketing director GB at Diageo, played down plans for the initiative. 'We're always looking for opportunities, but there are no real plans at present,' he said.



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