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Long term health of the pub industry still in doubt

However, the level of collapse is still comparatively high – nearly ten per cent up on just two years ago.

In the first half of 2010 London based companies such as London Town, Capital City Brewing Company Ltd, and Globe pub management became insolvent, as did several large late night venues such as Fabric nightclub and the Budha Bar.

David Chubb, partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP, said:

"Pub company insolvency rates have fallen from where we were a year ago – but trading remains difficult and further failures are expected as lenders consolidate their positions. The insolvency stats do not fully illustrate the extent of the problems in the sector as much underlying restructuring activity continues. Even without entering insolvency creditors may still experience pain."

Despite talks of public sector cuts and an uncertain unemployment market, 22 per cent of consumers polled anticipate having more disposable income over the next 12 months, up from 17 per cent a year ago. Economists are currently speculating that interest rates could be raised to 1.5% or even 2.5% by the end of the year.

"Any interest rate rise this year will increase the cost of mortgage repayments, squeezing discretionary spend on leisure activities. Even the uncertainty around interest rates causes people to hold back." David explained.

The pub trade is still operating under duress and although the Coalition have scrapped the review of the smoking ban (which was thought to include plans to expand the law to cover beer gardens and other communal areas), alcohol consumption will remain on the public health agenda.

David continued, "we have just seen the first World Cup since the smoking ban came into force – which might explain the high volumes of people who watched the England games (and other matches) at home."

"Generally insolvency rates increase as an economy clambers out of recession – due to working capital pressures. However, as pubs are not vulnerable to working capital any signs of a UK recovery, when they come, will be good news for the pub industry."

Restaurant company insolvency levels in Q2 2010 are up five per cent on the first three months of the year, but down 30 per cent from their peak of 183 in Q1 2009.

"While the propensity to dine out is still very much a part of UK culture, the pursuit of value for money by the consumer has led to even high end restaurants in London laying on fixed menus and other offers usually seen in casual dining."

"Restaurants must use their customer data to analyse whether such offers are bringing new customers through the door or whether their regulars, who would dine regardless, are just doing so and paying less," he expanded.

Such levels of discounting are unsustainable, another factor adding to the insolvency rate in this sector which is still 30 per cent higher than it was just two years ago.

David concluded,

"While restaurant closures have slowed both regional and London eateries are still very reliant on promotions and as a result profit margins remain under pressure. Consumers are likely to demand even greater value for money in the coming months as the impact of higher taxes and interest rates take hold."

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