Thursday, 15 December 2016

Big Seven tied houses 1963 - 1989

I'm not quite done with tied houses yet. Especially now I've found some handy new information.

I've now got a fairly decent set of numbers on how many tied houses the big brewers owned. It's made me realise that the rise of the Big Seven was more uneven than I had realised. With some of the companies coalescing earlier than others.

Allied - created by a merger of Ind Coope & Allsopp, Tetley Walker and Ansells - was fully formed in 1963 and didn't really grow after that date. For a while they were considerably larger than any of their rivals.

Courage and Whitbread, on the other hand, didn't reach their peak size until the 1970's. In the case of Courage, this was after their merger with John Smiths, a considerable force in the North of England. While Whitbread continued to snap up medium-sized regional breweries through the 1960's and early 1970's.

Bass Charrington, a merger of Bass M&B and Charrington United, was a combination of the third and fifth largest brewing companies. They immidiately catapulted to the top of the league and remained there until the Big Six melted away in the 1990's.

The whole consolidation process came to a jarring halt in the mid-1970's, when the Labour government told the Big Six they weren't allowed to take anyone else over. I can see now that it had a stultifying effect on British brewing. Along with the Beer Orders, it's the main reaason no large Brirish brewing company exists today. Without interfernce, the Big Seven would probably have been whittled down to three of four, at most.

I didn't realise it at the time, but when I started drinkibng in the early 1970's, the big brewers had already reached their peak. They owned around 55% of all pubs but, through loan, ties, controlled even more. There was very little truly free trade in the early 1970's. In 1974, 13,800 were owned by smaller brewers, meaning around three-quarters of pubs in the UK were owned by a brewer.

It's strange now to think that at one point two companies owned a qurter of the UK's pubs and three more than a third. How the beer retailing world has changed in the last 30 years.

Big Seven tied houses 1963 - 1989
1963 1967 1970 1974 1989
Company no. pubs % no. pubs % no. pubs % no. pubs % no. pubs %
Allied 9,300 12.60% 8,250 11.37% 8,250 11.55% 7,665 10.87% 6,000 7.48%
Watney 5,500 7.45% 6,667 9.19% 6,135 8.59% 5,946 8.43% 6,100 7.60%
Bass M&B 4,100 5.56% 10,230 14.10% 9,450 13.22% 9,256 13.13% 7,300 9.10%
Charr Utd 5,000 6.78%
Courage 4,800 6.50% 4,418 6.09% 6,000 8.40% 5,921 8.40% 5,100 6.36%
Whitbread 3,500 4.74% 7,376 10.17% 8,280 11.59% 7,865 11.16% 6,500 8.10%
S&N 1,700 2.30% 2,076 2.86% 1,700 2.38% 1,678 2.38% 2,300 2.87%
Guinness 2 2 2
total 33,902 45.94% 39,019 53.78% 39,817 55.72% 38,331 54.37% 33,300 41.51%
total no. pubs 73,800 72,550 71,457 70,495 80,212
The British Brewing Industry 1830 - 1980 by T.R. Gourvish and R.G. Wilson, 1994, page 472.
The Brewers' Society Statistical handbook 1973”, page 50.
2011 Statistical Handbook of the BBPA, page 74
"Brewers' Almanack 1971", page 83.
“The Brewing Industry, a Guide to Historical Records” by Lesley Richmond & Alison Turton.


Malcolm Nicholls said...

You say there was "very little truly free trade",; I assume you are referring only to the pub market, as of course there was a very significant club sector, whether CIU, British Legions, political clubs etc. When I was at Allied in the 1980s the bulk of free trade business was clubs.
Competition was around choice of brands ( pretty limited of course) and yeh provision of loans; outside the national account sector there was little discounting.

Phil said...

What's the 'it' that had a stultifying effect on British brewing - takeover mania or the Labour government stopping it going any further?

Ron Pattinson said...


the block on further takeovers.