Beer business is about to pick up

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The coming weeks could be good for beer sales provided the offer is right

The Six Nations tends to increase footfall in pubs and is likely to help with beer sales in particular. However, standards will remain important

THE festive season is over, the January clean is done and the new year isn’t quite as new anymore. With 2018 now firmly behind them, licensees will be looking ahead to some of the big opportunities to boost trade this year.

And brewers reckon the coming weeks could provide a solid chance to grow beer revenues, as rugby tournament the Six Nations gets underway.

While the first weeks of the year can usually be expected to be quiet for the on-trade, beer firms said the Six Nations – which kicks off on February 1 (see page 28) – is likely to encourage rugby fans back into licensed premises.

Gerald Michaluk of Arran Brewery said the tournament can usually be expected to bring “more footfall, more revenue and more profit” – a view that was shared by several brewers.

There were said to be several steps licensees can take to help them generate and then capitalise on increased footfall during the Six Nations.

A spokeswoman for Guinness parent company Diageo said licensees should “make sure consumers know your pub is a rugby pub”.

“Achieve this through using POS to drive visibility both inside and out, and advertise fixtures ahead of time to ensure footfall and build association between rugby and your pub,” she said, supporting this with the claim that outlets using Guinness point of sale materials during previous tournaments had grown sales of the stout by up to 50%.

Most important of all, however, is the experience of watching the matches.

“Research has found that rugby fans want to see the game more than anything else – other elements are important but secondary to the viewing quality,” said the Diageo spokeswoman.

This was supported by Claire Arnott, head of customer marketing at Tennent’s, when she said licensees should “ensure that the basics are covered”.

As well as making sure there are clear lines of sight to screens from anywhere inside the venue, these basics include staffing up for matches and ensuring there is a solid range of beers on the bar and in the fridge.

“Licensees need to provide a great experience for their customers – make sure that there are plenty of screens, and they all are visible from a distance, the view is not obstructed and the service is smooth,” said the Diageo spokeswoman.

“These things seem to be obvious, but if they are not in place, they might make fans go somewhere else.”

Arnott at Tennent’s advised licensees to consider stocking beers from each of the Six Nations competing in the tournament – Scotland, England, Ireland, Wales, France and Italy – with Michaluk at Arran Brewery predicting lager and cask ale will both prove popular with the rugby crowd.

Jo Stewart, co-founder of Stewart Brewing, agreed.

While she pointed out that rugby tends to attract “a very diverse crowd” and there is no such thing as a “typical rugby fan”, Stewart said she expects some styles of beer to prove more popular than others with rugby fans.

She said: “For most, rugby is a social occasion and best enjoyed over a pint or two of something sessionable whether it’s a lager or a quality ale.”

Stewart added that, more generally, she expects the booming IPA and pale ale styles of beer to continue to rule the roost this year with regard to craft beer sales.

Ultimately, the tournament can fulfil two roles for licensees, helping to boost footfall at a quieter time of year, as well as a means of attracting customers who could potentially become new regulars.

But Stewart stressed the importance of keeping standards high when the venue is at its busiest.

“Rugby attracts a good, mixed audience and Six Nations is a great opportunity for licensees to showcase their offer to potential new customers. If you can tap into the rugby market, the benefits are obvious and can provide a nice boost over the quieter month of February,” she said.

“The important thing is to ensure service and product quality are not negatively affected by the inevitable spike in demand.”

Licensees who get their offer right are likely to notice a benefit to their business, said brewers.

Or, as Anna Orr of Bellfield Brewery, the gluten-free Edinburgh brewer, put it: “Happy customers with great beer means a great atmosphere, regardless of the match result.”