Tennent's offers festive cheer to beleaguered pubs

SCOTTISH brewer Tennent's has offered a "lifeline" to thousands of struggling pub and hotel owners in Scotland who have been bit hard by the double whammy of recession and adverse weather conditions by extending its credit terms.

The lager maker, which is owned by Irish firm C&C Group, is providing a month's extension of credit to all of its independent customers in a move strongly welcomed by the industry's main trade body, the Scottish Licensed Trade Association (SLTA).

Paul Waterson, the chief executive of the SLTA, said: "It is very welcome at a very difficult time for us. It is good to see Tennent's taking the initiative in doing something to help smaller operators."

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Waterson, who also runs the Golden Lion hotel in Stirling, said that several of the group's members had seen crucial December trade cut in half due to severe snow and cold.

"If you consider that for many premises December represents about 15 to 20 per cent of total yearly turnover, many have lost in some cases 50 to 60 per cent of their income this month.

"Many places have had to close because of the weather, so it is really pretty vital. It is a lifeline to many of them," said Waterson.

Mike Lees, chief executive of Tennent's, said: "We are extending credit for thousands of our customers because, as Scotland's biggest brewer, we know how tough it has been for publicans in this exceptionally bad weather."

Lees said that while each customer was dealt with on an individual basis, generally most independent pubs would be offered an extra month to pay for orders of Tennent's lager and Magners cider, as well as other brands it distributes.

Lees said: "Some people won't want that but those than need it will be able to do it.

"It has been very tough trading conditions for pubs and clubs and bars across the on-trade. People, because the pavements are slippery or the weather has been so bad, aren't going out to pubs as much.

"Secondly, some customers are experiencing functions being cancelled or they are being postponed.

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"We understand out customer base. We know how tough it has been. We value their business all year round so this is showing some support to the free trade guys in Scotland."

Lees said the initiative will cost the brewer some money to deliver - an undisclosed amount - as the firm adjusts its automated ordering system.

"But we think it is worth it and hopefully this helps our customers who are finding it difficult right now," said Lees.

"It is the season of goodwill."

Waterson said the weather had added to difficulties faced by pub owners since the smoking ban and by the recession.

"The weather has just made it very difficult. There are a lot of people not getting supplies in and customers can't get in. Some places shut for maybe three or four days last week.We got a bit of respite in the west of Scotland over the weekend but it has been really bad up in some northern parts," said Waterson.

"A lot of places have never really recovered from the smoking ban and then you have supermarkets nearly giving alcohol away.

"A lot of people were looking for December to haul them out of some of the problems.

"There have been lots of closures of public houses over the last three or four years. We will continue to see that. But initiatives like this are very welcome."

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He added that he hoped other suppliers to independent pubs and restaurants might also give the SLTA's members a break.

He said: "We'd hope that others will follow Tennent's lead. When we see the VAT increase in January, prices are going up. Taking this to other companies would help us greatly."