Brewers and hospitality groups are preparing for a hit to beer sales this year, as UK consumers limit their drinking budgets, the Financial Times reports.

The squeeze on the cost of living has so far affected big-ticket purchases such as electronics and clothing more than drinks, but people are beginning to hold back from spending in hospitality venues or are choosing less expensive brands of beer, brewers and pub groups said.

In the UK, beer purchasing across bars, pubs, restaurants and stores declined 2.6% year on year in the third quarter of last year to 7.1mn barrels, according to the British Beer and Pub Association. Both Heineken and Carlsberg have warned of early signs of softening demand in Europe.

“People are still out and about but understandably are cautious,” said Tim Martin, chair of JD Wetherspoon. The company said sales in the five weeks to November 6 were down 1.1% from the same period in 2019.

Oliver Robinson, managing director at Robinsons brewery in Stockport, said: “We are starting to see less frequent visits, and people are very happy to spend £5.50 on a pint but maybe two rather than three.”

The World Cup and Christmas are expected to provide a seasonal boost, and not all pub groups are suffering: in the 10 weeks to December 3, like-for-like sales at Mitchells & Butlers, the UK’s largest listed pub group, were up 9.2% compared with the same weeks in 2019.

“Everyone is expecting that the real squeeze in disposable incomes is going to come next year,” said Trevor Stirling, analyst at Bernstein.

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