Special offers on drink in off-licences and pubs to rise
Amount of alcohol sold last year fell 9pc to 2001 levels, report reveals
DRINKS industry bosses yesterday predicted an increase in special offers at off-licences and pubs, potentially pitting alcohol sellers on a collision course with responsible drinking agency Meas.
Official data shows alcohol prices rose by 2pc last year, but industry bosses said the on-the-ground picture was very different since the official figures did not account for special offers.
"You've only got to look around to see that there are much more specials going on in food and drink," said Donall O'Keeffe who heads up the Licensed Vintners Association (LVA). "I think those trends will accelerate during the year -- there will be more pressure to offer better value and the trade will respond."
The prediction comes less than a fortnight after Meas expressed concern about the "prevalence of promotions" in both off licences and pubs, where pints are selling for as little as €2.50. Meas is concerned that below-cost selling of alcohol, enabled by a legal change three years go, could encourage irresponsible drinking.
Mr O'Keeffe's predictions came as the Drinks Industry Group of Ireland (DIGI) launched a state-of-the-nation report showing the volume of drinks sold in the Irish market fell 8.9pc last year, putting per- head alcohol consumption at 2001 levels.
The fall in the volume of alcohol sales was accompanied by a more muted fall in value terms, with last year's €6.55bn down just 6.8pc year-on-year, implying a rise in average prices, but Mr O'Keeffe, who also acts as DIGI's secretary, strongly rejected suggestions that the drinks industry had not been "responsive" enough on price.
The report's author, DCU economist Anthony Foley, said while a "perfect measure" might not dramatically change the on-trade picture, the fall in prices at Ireland's off-licences could have been as much as 10pc last year, against the 2pc rise reported by the Central Statistics Office (CSO), if special offers were taken into account.
"The official price of a bottle of whiskey might be €25 but you know that you can get that for €17, €18 in a supermarket these days," he added. "Off-licence prices might have increased by about 2pc in 2009 but I know I could have gotten some products 20pc cheaper."
DIGI chairman Kieran Tobin, who's better known as corporate affairs director for drinks giant Irish Distillers, said he was hopeful the CSO would soon start looking at drinks prices over a five or six-day period rather than a one-off snapshot to get a more accurate picture of the landscape.
Despite the fall in alcohol sales and the closure of 1,500 pubs over the last five or six years, Mr O'Keeffe said DIGI's members remained largely profitable. "We'll see another 200 to 350 pubs go a year over 2010, 2011 and 2012 but those that remain will have to be profitable," he stressed.