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Beer barometer brings consumer spend warning

·1-min read
Is ‘Spoons and other pub chains the real barometer of the economy? (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Archive)
Is ‘Spoons and other pub chains the real barometer of the economy? (Henry Nicholls/PA) (PA Archive)

So what do today’s figures tell us about the state of the economy? No, not the ONS’s surprisingly brisk GDP data — does a trip to the GP’s surgery really count as economic activity? — but the altogether more interesting insights from ubiquitous pub chain Wetherspoons.

Its unusually downbeat chairman and founder Tim Martin spoke of the “laborious” recovery in pub revenues after the lifting of pandemic restrictions. The real shocker was sales of pints, still down 8% on 2019 levels. Yet cocktail sales are up 18.6%. Go figure.

Meanwhile across the road from ’Spoons there is no such gloomy talk at bar, restaurant and café chain Loungers, where booming revenues are at record levels.

In the GDP figures — apart from trips to the doctors — the biggest rise in output in the private sector came from the travel sector with the upsurge in holiday bookings that are bringing havoc to Heathrow and Gatwick.

So a boom in cocktail and foreign holidays but cutting back on lager? Perhaps the May jump in output is all to do with post-Covid euphoria, when those who could afford it spent on treats like they were going out of fashion, while those hardest hit by the cost-of-living squeeze cut back on their daily pleasures.

It is still hard to say. June’s GDP figure will not shed much more light as the waters will be muddied by the Platinum Jubilee celebrations. But if the ’Spoons beer barometer is a good “canary warning” indicator of consumer spending trends then maybe economists really should be crying into their pints.

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