“Sofalising” trend is hitting pub takings, warns beer boss

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THE boss of beer firm Tennent’s says the new trend for “sofalising” is keeping Scots away from the nation’s pubs.

Mike Lees, chief executive of the brewing giant, says reality television shows such as The X Factor are encouraging Scots to drink at home rather than go out.

And he warned that the trend is putting further strain on pubs as more and more customers switch to supermarkets and off licences for their drink.

“Sofalising” – a combination of sofa and socialising – refers to people who prefer to sit at home contacting people on social networks rather than going out.

But to the drinks industry, the term has a wider – and more worrying – meaning.

Lees, speaking in a radio interview, said: “Sofalising is a bit of jargon around people staying at home and watching TV programmes like X Factor and buying in products, both their food and drink, and this is also having an effect on pubs.”

Lees said the X Factor, Strictly Come Dancing and The Apprentice were among the programmes having an impact.

The X Factor final attracted more than 17 million viewers, and Strictly almost £13 million.

Lees said: “People do switch away from pubs to the off trade. It also has an impact in that people start going out later. Instead of going out early in the evening they go out later.”

Paul Waterson, chief executive, of the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA), said: “I think Mike is right. Publicans are saying that when programmes like X Factor are on, everyone stays in.”

With the price of a pint in most Scottish bars well beyond £3, pubs are struggling to compete with supermarkets selling the same in some cases for less than £1.

Waterson added: “We would argue that it’s not so much that pubs are expensive but that supermarkets are giving alcohol away and that is irresponsible and should be stopped.”

Younger drinkers in particular were “preloading” with cheap alcohol, watching television, and then going out to the pub for a few hours, said Waterson. He added: “Then they are postloading – going home to party.”

Waterson said the wintry weather was compounding the damage done by “sofalising”. Pubs, which can take 20% of their annual income in December, are reporting takings down by as much as 60%, he said.

Tennent’s said later that trade had swung from pubs to off-sales by an average of 1% every year between 2000 and 2009.

A spokesman said: “This can be attributed to a number of factors, including employment and social trends, pricing and, more recently, the smoking ban. However, it is not possible to identify any single cause.”

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