Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Publicans’ profits

Edd Mather recently sent me a very handy document, listing agreed wholesale prices in 1919.

One of the oddities of the control of beer prices at the end of WW I was that it only dealt with retail prices. There was no control of the wholesale prices brewers charged publicans. Which, in theory, could have left a landlord with no profit margin whatsoever.

It’s possible to see what the markup was for some publicans by comparing the wholesale prices with the controlled retail prices. The letter from the Wigan and District Brewers' Association, dated 31st July 1919, lays out the agreed wholesale price for beers of various price categories. It’s a bit of simple mathematics to calculate what the landlord made per pint sold.

Wigan and District Brewers' Association wholesale prices
retail price per pint (pence) wholesale price per barrel (shillings) retail price per barrel (shillings) profit per pint (pence) % profit
4 72 96 1 25.00%
5 90 120 1.25 25.00%
6 100 144 1.83 30.56%
7 120 168 2 28.57%
A letter dated 31st July 1919.

Interestingly, the profit on the stronger classes was greater. Though, obviously, due to the restrictions on average OG (which was 1049º as of 1st August 1919), the quantity of stronger beer available was limited.

In the early stages of the war there were accusations of profiteering by publicans. Which is one of the reasons price controls were introduced. But looking at the numbers, it doesn’t look like that was the case in 1919. In 1914, London “Four Ale” (X Ale) retailed for 2d. per pint and cost 36 shillings a barrel. Which also comes out to a gross profit of around 25%.


Phil said...

I thought "four ale" was so called because it cost 4d - was that "two ale"? Or was it fourpence a *quart*?

Ron Pattinson said...


four ale was 4d. a quart.