The agent Barry J Gillham, chairman, Fleurets

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The Morning Advertiser has been around since 1794 and Fleurets was founded in the 1820s. I have only been around since 1964, but I have witnessed a...

The Morning Advertiser has been around since 1794 and Fleurets was founded in the 1820s. I have only been around since 1964, but I have witnessed a lot of changes, from the MA being issued as a six-day-a-week paper to its latest format.

For as long as I can remember, people have said the licensed trade is in terminal decline, but 40 years on it is still providing for the wants of an ever-changing customer base.

There are fewer pubs now than there were, but many of those that have gone did not deserve to stay in business or were wrongly positioned, having served industries and populations that have long since ceased to exist.

The 1970s saw all the best pubs transferred to management. Since the millennium we have seen many transfer back to lease. There are now more good pubs run by individuals than at any time in my memory. Not only are they bigger and better than the tenancies that existed 30 years ago, but they have a more sustainable customer base.

Pubs are generally now positioned where their customers want them and provide facilities that meet modern requirements. Most provide food facilities. Most have smoking solutions. Virtually all have inside toilets and are comfortably furnished — not like it was when I started!

Licensees have plenty to contend with in 2008. You don't need me to list the problems. But interest rates remain low and we have the highest level of employment now than in any previous decade.

Customers have more free time than before, have more free cash and take more meals outside the home. The opportunities are there for those willing to take them. If you want

to run a pub, there are plenty for you to choose from. Those with the experience and cash resources can do excellent deals now.

Prices are down a little from previous excesses. People will pay for a proven business, but will deduct

for the time it may take to re-build neglected businesses or for the

spend needed on repairs, decorations and refurnishing. Money is still available for freeholds.

It is more difficult for lease, but many people have big equity holdings in private houses that can provide the security — so long as the business plan will support the loan.

I see 2008 as a busy year for the pub market. Some will decide they do not have the energy or skills required to encompass change. Others will see this as an opportunity to be seized. Both will need the best advice to be sure to achieve the best results in a difficult and rapidly changing property market.

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