The pub property market appears to be bottoming out with wet-led businesses moving towards a more “stabilised level of trade”, according to agent Jones Lang LaSalle, writes Gurjit Degun. The firm’s Pub Property Sentiment Survey 2012 said that 35% of respondents reported no change in wet sales, and just 9% reported a decrease of up to 9.9%. The report said this was a “stark contrast to last year” where 21% reported no change and 66% said they saw a decrease of up 14.9%. The report noted: “This may suggest that the market is bottoming-out and that wet-led businesses may now be moving towards a more stabilised level of trade in a new “normalised” world, albeit at a much lower base level than historically.” However the study found that 37% of those questioned reported a decrease in food sales of up to 14.9%, with 44% reporting no change. The report explained that the results may imply that the traditional pub with food is beginning to lose market share to branded value family pub restaurants. It added: “In addition, the fast casual dining market continues to gain market share and challenge the traditional food service providers. With an increasing supply and tightened purse strings, is there the beginning of too much consumer choice?” Although these results are inconsistent with respondents’ expectations. Nearly one third (29%) said that country dining and 24% family food-led businesses are areas for growth. In terms of buyers, the report noted that cash buyers in the north are targeting property below £200,000 and in the south the ceiling price is £300,000. However Jones Lang LaSalle claimed that with a resurgence in brewery-style loans, “this may provide the necessary mezzanine funding to assist buyers; the future might be looking more positive”. The report concluded: “In a world seemingly intent on broadcasting doom and gloom, it is refreshing that the public house sector respondents are reporting a more positive outlook for trading performance. Today’s consumer are more focused on value, which typically does not necessitate the need for cheap pricing, but the delivery of a good value and a quality experience. In our experience, it is these businesses that are not only best placed to deliver growth but are being reflected in company results.”