Thursday, 15 February 2018

Divided action by Edinburgh retailers

On 1st April, 1917, the amount of beer breweries were allowed to produce was severely limited, with UK production fixed at 11,470,000 standard barrel, around a third of the pre-war level. The tax was also raised from 24s to 25s per standard barrel.

Of sourse, that doesn't mean the number of bulk barrels was limited to that figure. A standard bareel was 36 gallons with an OG of 1055º. So if you brewed beer at just 1027.5º,  you could brew twice as much. Theere was going to be less beer at it was going to be dearer.

Those were different days. It was common for publicans' associations in a town to fix prices. Something that I'm sure would be illegal today. In Edinburgh and neighbouring Leith a different policy of the trade associations led to a disparity in prices.


The public-houses in Edinburgh last evening did a steady business, notwithstanding the snowstorm and the phenomenally high prices fixed to come into operation yesterday — a minimum of 9d. per pint of beer and 9d. per glass of whisky. This experience was common to both the shops in the poorer localities and the bettor known establishments in the city. The accustomed patronage was due, to a considerable extent, to the fact that in the majority of cases the minimum rates recommended by the Trade Association were not adopted by the traders. A charge of 8d. was substituted for the pint of beer, and the same price for a glass of whisky. In some bars where the Association's prices were introduced it was stated that little business was done, and that in one case a number of customers declined to purchase beer at 9d. per pint when they discovered that they could get the same article at a neighbouring shop at 8d. After this experience the shopkeeper came into line with his neighbours who were charging 8d., In some cases even 8d. charges were not made, the licence-holder having decided to charge the old prices and make the change to the new list simultaneously with Leith to-morrow.

It was stated by the manager of one establishment that the effect of the alteration bad been to reduce considerably the consumption of beer, many customers having economised by taking instead small glasses of whisky and such wines as port and sherry. The action of the "trade" in Leith in fixing lower prices than in Edinburgh contributed to the development yesterday, as dealers saw the possibility of custom being lost to a considerable extent by the competition of Leith licence-holders. It is understood that while the 60 per cent. advance by the brewers will necessitate a corresponding advance on the part of the retailers, nevertheless the latter in many cases have had considerable stocks on hand, and are apparently willing to give their customers the advantage of these stocks without charging the full increase in the meantime. On the other hand, it has been recognised that the retail prices for whisky have been in excess of the actual economic necessities of the case, the increased prices having been, to some extent, anticipatory of the supply of potable spirits being exhausted in the near future. There is a belief, possibly well founded, that with the large reduction in the strength of spirits allowed by the Government below the prewar standard  licence-holders might almost have sold whisky at the old prices and still have made a profit, and while the sales have fallen off during the past year in the aggregate, the large increase in the prices which they have charged has more than made up any deficiency in their profits. Another meeting of the Edinburgh Wine, Spirit, and Beer Trade Association is to be hold to-day, when the situation will be further considered  and it is possible that the list of prices decided upon last week will be revised."
The Scotsman - Tuesday 03 April 1917, page 4.

I'm not sure why the price brewers charged for beer was increasing by 60% when the tax increase had only been around 4%. Perhaps it was the brewers compensating for the lesser amount of beer they were allowed to brew.

9d. a pint might not sound much today, but at the start of the war a pint of Mild would have only set you back 2d. To be honest, a minimum price of 9d. per pint seems awfully high. Even in 1918 the average price of a pint was 4.5d. Admittedly, that was for beer probably half the strength it was in 1914.

1 comment:

Phil said...

1d in 1917 money equates to about 27p in today's, so...

4.5d: £1.22
8d: £2.16
9d: £2.43

Beer's definitely dearer than it used to be.