'Tipping Point' Reached For High Road Shops
Long time local trader warns internet could ruin independents


20 Devonshire Road, W4 2HD
020 8995 9813



Following the Small Business Saturday event in Chiswick, local trader Mike Moran has penned his thoughts on the challenges facing local independent traders.

"There has been a lot of talk about business rents that are charged in the local Chiswick area, and there are some legitimate reasons they are high and continue to rise. Many of the properties for rent are part of pensions, either individuals relying on the the income or a property portfolio held by a large pension company. Whilst we all complain, are you willing to take a drop in your pension?

When my parents opened Top Hat Cleaners on the High Road in 1968, Chiswick was mostly small trader, businesses owned and run by local people. However, as shopping trends have changed those smaller shops have been replaced by the much larger companies we have in Chiswick today. There are many reasons for that too, and the rent and business rates are part of that, but the public are also responsible for the change too.

This Christmas it is estimated that £1 in every £3 will be spent on the internet so it’s a classic case of ‘use it or lose it’. Of course it’s not that simple and no matter how busy a shop is there is a price that you can no longer afford to pay and make a profit – yes we traders are here to make a profit! We also employ people and, unlike some well-known online retailers, we pay taxes, which is another reason we are I believe we are better for the county as a whole and the local community.

We talk of supporting independent companies but do we back that up or do we just go for the easy route because of our busy lives? Should we look deeper and see which businesses put something back in to the local community and support them before one of their competitors? Any of you that have helped out for a charity, local school fund raising, church fete etc will know it is the same businesses that give freely year in year out. While this may be done in part to promote the business it is just as often a small way of saying ‘thank you’ to the people that support their business. Should we not take this into consideration when deciding where to shop?

You may ask why successive Governments refuse to clamp down on tax laws to prevent larger companies from paying legitimate tax? It is surely no coincidence that so many retired MP’s and Ministers are to be found on the boards of these large companies? If the large multinational companies paid their tax like us smaller companies…well, you finish that thought.

Commercial property agents also have their part to play in replacing independents, asking silly rents that new companies cannot continue to pay. When these start-up businesses go bust, the agent gets to re-let the property and so gets another bite of commission, so perhaps it’s in their interest to keep rents high. It always amazes me that when prospective business owners come along to look at empty shops they don’t speak to any of  the shops nearby to see what rents are being paid, what parking is like and other local knowledge. If they think opening a shoe shop that only sells left shoes will survive and thrive in that locations, that’s their decision, but free honest local information is available from those already trading next door!

I personally believe that we are reaching a tipping point on Britain’s high streets; the internet is taking more and more sales away from live retailers and some shops are more like ‘show rooms’. In time, as we trust the internet more and more, we will no longer bother to go to the high street to buy goods so rents will have to drop to attract those businesses that still need to have a shop on a street. Luckily my trade is one that cannot be replaced by the internet!

One local ladies dress shop recently had a woman come in to try on a blouse so she could order it on the internet from America. Personally I wouldn’t have the front to do this, but does this women not think forward and realize that in a year or so she won’t be able to try on the next blouse before she buys it from the internet because that shop won’t be there?

So this Christmas why not take the time to wonder down the High Road, Devonshire Road and Turham Green Terrace? Have a look at what the little shops have to offer - a level of service, detailed knowledge, attention to detail because they care and are passionate about what they offer. "It's all very well and good telling your friends that Chiswick is a great place to live with its lovely little independent shops but if you don't actually use them then they will go out of business and then how great will in be to have a High Road full of multi nationals"

We traders have our part to play too. We should not expect customers to choose us just because we are independent, or local. We must offer a better shopping experience through service and knowledge if we are to survive, but if we want our local independent retailers to survive – and surveys always show that we do – it must be a collaborative effort and not just talk.

Shop local and remember “we’re all in this together”

Mike Moran

December 11, 2013