Off-trade sales of beer have fallen faster than on-trade sales, for the first time in more than 15 years.

Figures for the final quarter of 2011 show sales through supermarkets and off-licenses fell 3.7% by volume compared to the same period in 2010. Sales in pubs, clubs and restaurants fell by 3.4% over the same period.

The last time the on-trade outperformed the off-trade in such a way was in 1996, when football’s European Championships were held in England.

However, there was some good news for retailers, as the decline in overall sales of beer was slower than in the previous four quarters.

Despite the slowdown, British Beer & Pub Association chief executive Brigid Simmonds warned the industry could not afford another round of “inflation-busting” tax hikes in the next Budget.

“This will delay any potential recovery in an iconic and economically vital British industry,” she said.