The decline in total UK beer sales has slowed significantly in the third quarter of 2009, according to the British Beer & Pub Association (BBPA).

Beer sales slipped by 0.8% for the three months to the end of September, compared to the third quarter of 2008, show BBPA figures released today (29 October). 

This marked a lower decline than the 5% and 8% falls in the second and first quarters of 2009 respectively.

Beer sales in supermarkets and shops rose by 4.4% in the third quarter, while there was a continued decline in the on-trade, with sales down by 4.7% on the same quarter last year.

Still, the on-trade slip is the second lowest rate of decline since the first quarter of 2007, the BBPA said.

"These latest figures signal that overall beer sales are beginning to stabilise, but beer sales in pubs continue to decline, contributing to a pub closure rate of 52 per week," said Brigid Simmonds, BBPA chief executive.

Despite this, the BBPA believes that any fragile recovery may be threatened by the Government's planned value added tax (VAT) increase, which would put a further six pence on a typical pub pint from January 2010.

"This is a fragile situation, that could well be jeopardised by the wrong decisions on tax in the forthcoming pre-budget report, said Simmonds.

"We have already suffered beer tax increases totalling 20% in the past two years - a tax increase of GBP600m during a record recession. Further punitive tax increases could snuff out any recovery, with further job losses."