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Related tags Great depression

That appalling summer. The horrendous floods. Plummeting beer sales - the lowest since the Great Depression. Rock-bottom off-trade prices (22p a can...

That appalling summer. The horrendous floods. Plummeting beer sales - the lowest since the Great Depression. Rock-bottom off-trade prices (22p a can in Asda!). The bingeing it caused. And the end of smoking in pubs. No wonder so few licensees will recall 2007 with even a shred of affection.

It really has been a tough old year, the toughest for perhaps a decade. But what you can say in its favour is that next year could make it look like the dear old vicar's tea party in comparison.

The sky is black with economic pigeons coming home to roost at the moment. Yes, consumers will spend their way through Christmas as best they can. But they'll pull up the drawbridge when the bills start arriving in late January. And as house prices slide, and the price of oil rises, so our economy's going to slow and consumer confidence get very shaky indeed. Spending in pubs will inevitably suffer. Especially if the brewers and other suppliers push through the inflation-busting rises they're talking about.

Two things need to happen to avert disaster. Firstly, the banks - whose greed got us into this mess - have got to start lending again, and the Bank of England has got to keep cutting rates.

Secondly, licensees and pubcos have got to help each other like never before. Licensees who don't have business plans, don't employ stocktakers, don't clean their pipes regularly and don't rethink their offer have got to get smarter and look for the entrepreneur within them. That means thinking harder about why customers should bother to choose their pub, as opposed to staying at home or the many other things we can all do these days.

As for pubcos, next year will be the first real test of their business model since it began to flourish in the mid-1990s. More licensees than ever before will be struggling with rents and repairs. They'll need all the help they can possibly get from their BDMs in working out survival strategies.

Pubcos have their City masters to answer to, but they've got to be realistic too. Far better to stick with a struggling licensee and help him than be forced to find a replacement. It's the way a family brewer would do it, and the big pubcos would do well to study their approach.

Next year will be the 20th anniversary of the first Inntrepreneur lease. Those who were around then will recall the pain and suffering its rigid enforcement caused for so many licensees. Of course, it also came to serve many licensees well as they grew their businesses. Let's hope it's that more positive side of the lease model which is firmly to the fore next year.

Related topics Property law

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£ 60,000 - Leasehold

Busy location on coastal main road Extensively renovated detached public house Five trade areas (100)  Sizeable refurbished 4-5 bedroom accommodation Newly created beer garden (125) Established and popular business...

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