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07 December 2016 | Pubs

Go East: why the pub market in East Anglia is luring former publicans back to the trade

East Anglia has always been a key region for the pub sector. Towards the end of what has been a landmark year politically and economically, the market for pubs continues to be strong and more quality businesses are becoming available due to this positivity.

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Privately owned freehouses in good locations such as cities, market towns and those near to busy A roads tend to be the most in demand properties in the region, particularly if they have rooms to complement their offering. If they have been visibly subjected to good investment by their owners, they are more likely to reap the returns and appeal to both multiple operators who are wishing to expand their current portfolios as well as new entrants. A good example of this is The Globe Inn in Wells-next-the-Sea which Christie & Co is currently marketing; with over 100 covers, seven letting rooms and established planning permission for more, the investment in its marketing (through high profile publication reviews and award entries) as well as bricks and mortar is expected to attract a lot of interest.

Leaseholds are less popular but such businesses with high turnovers and reasonable rents are favoured by aspiring leaseholders. Existing operators are also looking to grow and we are seeing many seeking to acquire their second or third business in the East Anglia area. Pubcos are focusing their attention on managed house estates; however, casual dining brands are still looking to acquire in town and city locations which looks set to continue into 2017.

We are also seeing more people return to the trade – those who gave up their business several years ago are now becoming interested again, perhaps a reflection of the current buoyant state of the market. An example of this is The White Horse in Whepsted which Christie & Co sold recently to experienced former operators returning to the sector.

Even businesses which are under performing are proving attractive to those seeking a challenge with potential for refurbishment and extension. Furthermore, the fact that banks are now keener to lend than they have been for a long time due to this public confidence is extremely uplifting for existing and aspiring operators. Fortunately, this doesn’t look likely to change anytime soon – despite the UK’s political and economic uncertainty.

As we get into Q4, the spotlight areas to look out for regarding the East Anglian pub market are North Norfolk, Cambridge and Chelmsford, the latter of which’s new retail development, Bond Street has really put it on the map. Bury St Edmonds, the home of Greene King also continues to be an active area in the marketplace with many operators choosing this as their secondary location after Cambridge.

The 100% wet-led boozer is now a rarity in the East Anglia region with most outlets offering some kind of food to attract customers; however, the ones that do well have a unique selling point such as marketing themselves as a genuine good real ale house.

From Christie & Co’s recent experience, the vast majority of pubs are remaining as pubs. Our recent sale of The Fox Inn to a group made up of the local community was a fantastic initiative and we hope the local residents  will continue to support them – saving it from developers.

The pub sector this year has proven itself incredibly robust and ready to weather any storms that are yet to come. The amount of pubs we are being invited to inspect across the East Anglia region shows that owners are also recognising that their hard work is paying off and are in a very good position should they be ready to sell.