As The Local Retail Landscape Continues To Change

We take a look at the contributing factors to traders' struggle for survival

Once it was the fear that chains would take over the High Road that was the main local concern. However, considering the extent to which the retail landscape has altered since the beginning of the year, that concern must have surely have changed to whether Chiswick is en route to becoming a ghost town.

As more independents and chains shut up shop, those still surviving are calling on both landlords and the Government to open their eyes to the real issues that are being faced by retailers.

Commenting on the 12% rise in business rates set to come into effect next month, Mike Moran, owner of Devonshire Road's Top Hat Dry Cleaners, told, "I run the family business that my parents started in 1967 and work long hours to provide a level of service to keep my customers happy. Mr Brown and his gang has now decided that I will dry clean an extra couple of hundred suits each year just for them."

The BRC is also calling for a freeze on all new business rate burdens and the reinstatement of empty property rate relief. BRC director-general Stephen Robertson told Retail Week, ""Property is one of retailing's biggest costs, alongside our people. There is a real danger that these government-imposed costs will result in more empty high street stores and further job losses. Business rates must be frozen at 2008 levels.

"Retailers don't want handouts, but we can't cope with increasing government-imposed handicaps. Retailing is at the heart of every local community, providing one in nine UK jobs. The Government must work with us to protect these jobs and promote new opportunities."

Along with business rates and high rents retailers bore the brunt of VAT reduction and are set to bear it again on December 31 when the Government plans to increase VAT back to 17.5%. According to the British Retail Consortium the VAT cut cost the sector £90m to implement. The planned timing of the increase back to 17.5% is likely to cost the retail industry the same again.

Mike Moran said, "If one member of the Government had bothered to leave their sanitised world and walked down any High Street in the UK they would have seen the 20% off signs and know the reducing the prices by 2.15% would may no difference. They just leave us to pick up the bill in the future.

Business that have closed since the beginning of 2009 include: Martin Kleiser, Make Up Shop (although Kirsty will still operating on a mobile basis), Eco (pizza restaurant), Sofa Workshop (went into administration but was saved by owner), Thornton’s (again saved from administration), Litkey Kids, The Shoe Tree, The Bay Tree, ECone, Fishworks, Karma and Café Delizia.

Premises that have been empty for some time include: goodness*, Est Est Est, Gravy, W4 Cleaners, Call Kwik and London Wall Bed Company as well as the former Smart Car garage and the Job Centre.

March 13, 2009