Smoking ban and slowdown hit brewers

The brewers Greene King and Fuller, Smith & Turner have blamed the smoking ban and a slowdown in consumer spending for weakening trade in their pubs.

Greene King, which makes Old Speckled Hen ale, said revenue fell 0.1 per cent at its managed estate in the first 38 weeks of the year. At the London Pride brewer Fuller's, like-for-like sales rose 4 per cent in the 43 weeks to 26 January, down from a 5.3 per cent gain in the first half.

Fuller's chairman, Michael Turner, said: "Since the half year, the slowdown in consumer spending and input price inflation on top of the smoking ban have made operating conditions more challenging."

His comments echo those of JD Wetherspoon, Enterprise Inns and Punch Taverns, which have said the smoking ban has hit sales. But most are confident sales will recover as more non-smokers visit pubs, drawn in by better food offerings and a more welcoming atmosphere. Greene King said at its Scottish pubs, where the ban has been in place for almost two years, turnover at company run pubs rose, with sales of Belhaven Best ale up 5.6 per cent.

Since the ban was introduced six months ago, one in three regular smokers now smokes less, according to research from Mintel, though 16 per cent said they are going out less. Helena Spicer, senior leisure analyst at Mintel, said: "Those ... worst hit are bingo halls and the smaller independent, more traditional, pubs."