Themed pubs at heart of high-street gold rush

There is no doubt that the leisure and retailing businesses on the receiving end of consumer spending are feeling a lot more optimistic than they have for years.

The clearest sign of the times is the explosive growth of themed pubs and restaurants,and the increasingly frenetic rush by big companies to grab a slice of the action.

The takeover of the Pelican group of French brasserie-style restaurants by Whitbread for pounds 133m was quickly followed by a pounds 100m bid by Rank for the Tom Cobleigh chain of pubs. Both companies have thrived on the rapid spread of eating-out which in less than a decade has transformed a visit to a restaurant from expensive treat to weekly, almost routine event.

According to figures from researchers at the Henley Centre the market for eating out has grown from pounds 16.2bn a year in 1992 to more than pounds 20bn. Their expectation is that by 2000 we will be spending almost pounds 30bn a year on eating out.

That has caused a revolution in the British pub sector, where the dingy boozers of a decade or so ago are fast being transformed into friendly drinking and eating places designed to attract families, and women.

Hotels, too, are flourishing - especially in London. A renaissance in the capital's tourist industry is driving occupancy and room rates higher than at any point since the Gulf war sent the business into a tailspin.

In the retail market, recent profits reported by Oasis, Moss Bros, Austin Reed and Tesco reflect rising sales and, in some cases, customers trading up to more expensive items.

But this is not yet the 1980s revisited. Consumers may be spending more but they are more careful about how they spend, and on what. As Rowland Gee, the managing director of Moss Bros, said: "It is still a very challenging market. People are much more cautious."

Thorntons, the confectionery chain that fell on hard times after the last boom, now admits times have changed. "It was easy in the Eighties," said the company's new chief executive, Roger Paffard. "Now you have to have the right products in exactly the right size shop in exactly the right place."

But for every success story such as Next, John Lewis and Tesco, there is a tale of hardship, as suffered by House of Fraser, WH Smith and Kwik Save.

One reason is price. Shoppers want value for their money - not just low prices. John Lewis's slogan, "Never knowingly undersold", is perfect for the current climate. Sales in its department stores are soaring.

Branding is another factor. In more frugal times it is retailers with the best names, such as Boots, and Marks & Spencer that prosper. Next - one of the high street's best performers - has refocused its brand after losing its way at the beginning of the Nineties. So has Habitat. Laura Ashley is attempting to rebuild an identity.

Demographic change is also playing a part. With an ageing population, retailers who serve a slightly older demographic group stand to gain. The signs are already there, with good figures last week from Moss Bros and Austin Reed.

The best retailers are also developing increasingly dominant positions in their sectors. The gap between the best and the rest is growing. For example, while many of its rivals struggle, Dixons is powering ahead in the huge boom in sales of multimedia PCs.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
A monstrous idea? Body transplants might no longer be science fiction
Science An Italian neurosurgeon believes so - and it's not quite as implausible as it sounds, says Steve Connor
Sport
Demba Ba (right) celebrates after Besiktas win on penalties
footballThere was no happy return to the Ataturk Stadium, where the Reds famously won Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
arts + ents
News
Mia Freedman, editorial director of the Mamamia website, reads out a tweet she was sent.
arts + ents
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
The write stuff: masters of story-telling James Joyce, left, and Thomas Hardy
arts + ents...begging to differ, John Walsh can't even begin to number the ways
Sport
Jose Mourinho on Sky Sports
footballEXCLUSIVE COLUMN Paul Scholes: It was not a leg-breaking tackle, as the Chelsea manager had claimed
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Bookkeeper

£23000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This small, friendly, proactive...

Recruitment Genius: Photographic Event Crew

£14500 - £22800 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developers - .NET / ASP.NET / WebAPI / JavaScript

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Software Developer is required to join a lea...

Austen Lloyd: Corporate Tax Solicitor - City

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: A first rate opportunity to join a top ranking...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower