Thwaites, the brewer and retailer, has reported a “very difficult year” that saw sales and profits down for the year to 31 March this year, writes Paul Charity. Turnover was down 2.1% with net profit before tax down by 22% to £9.9m. Chairman Ann Yerburgh said: “At the brewery, conditions were very difficult, largely due to the cumulative effect of a number of adverse factors. “Beer volumes fell, much of which was from the imposed smoking ban, which followed on from very poor summer weather. Our own pubs were down 9% on last year and we anticipate that this will continue in the coming year. “Free trade performed well, to be ahead by 6%. “These trading results compare against a market fall in on-sales of beer in the north-west of 7% and 8% nationally. “In addition, we have seen record increases in costs, especially raw materials, where malt and hop prices have nearly doubled in the last year.” Star performer was the company’s Shire Hotels division, which produced a profit of £8.5m a whole £7m more than in 2007. Yeburgh said: “For the first time, Shire Hotels has contributed more than to group profits than brewery operations, and this confirms the decision 27 years ago to diversify and to develop a second income stream for the group.” Thwaites invested £30.6m in the busines during the year, including £4.2m on new pubs and £3.3m on new brewery plant. A total of £2.8m was invested on converting the Black Sheep pub at the Aztec, Bristol into the new “Lodge in the Park” with 36 bedrooms. During the year, Peter Morris, who was previously an operations director at Scottish & Newcastle Pub Enterprises running 900 pub, replaced Brian Hickman as managing director.