Amber Taverns managing director James Baer has told MCA that the group’s main focus for expansion is now the acquisition of retail units.

Baer said that with pubco disposals slowing down over the past few years, the company had been forced to shift its focus to alternative sites.

He said that despite having to negotiate hurdles in terms of both planning and the price expectation of vendors, Amber expected to be able to open 12 to 14 of these sites this year.

He said that the introduction of the Northern Way brand, alongside its gin palace concept Hogarths and traditional wet-led community pub model, gave Amber several operating models for the sites it was taking on.

Baer said the group was still keen for pub deals where they present themselves, pointing to the acquisition of The White Hart in Newark from Admiral Taverns.

Upcoming openings for the c135-strong group include Stafford and Bradford.

Baer said: “It’s been a natural shift over the past few years. Some years ago the pubcos were selling big packages of pubs but those have pretty much dried up. We think there are some good opportunities in retail units at the moment – it’s just about getting through those necessary stages to get the right deal and to secure the necessary permissions.”