Thursday, 5 April 2012
More Portas woes
Portas review comes under fire again. Still, Mary's used to it. Every time she makes a show its attacked by someone. This time its because the allocation. The £10 million Government funded plan to revitalise the UK high street has come under fire after it emerged that one of the areas allocated £100,000 had just two vacant stores in its main town centre. This can only be an error though, surely?
Whilst its good to splash some cash as this report says In Nottingham, with 428 empty shops, the £100,000 grant is worth £233.64 per vacant store.
£233.64 is worth about 1 weeks rent. On LBC earlier there was a woman complaining that her shop has just received an 80% rent rise demand. And the rates bill, up to 40% of rental value. - She expected it would add £22,000 to her bills.
Her shop was an "ethereal holistic" shop . I suspect that means healing crystal and dreamcatchers. This is a shop that I wouldn't set foot in a billion years. But Mrs Q would be in there for ages. If a 'new' generation of smaller, more local shops, for local people plan is to be achieved then messing about with free parking days isn't going to be enough. No independent can stand an 80% rent rise. I've seen hundreds of shops turn from healthy profit to deadbeat loss makers after a rent review. Landlord doesn't care. They'll get a Starbucks instead.
So in the end all high streets become the same as they are all big buck chain stores. And why visit a crappy high street, if there's a bigger, better one, or shopping mall not too far away?
In some towns, Glastonbury, Canterbury,for instance, these New Age stores become a draw for the student/tree hugging market. That gives a USP to the high street and a reason to visit. And its all about footfall. A newsagents in a busy, aging, dippy hippy, street is still better off than one in an empty ex-chain street.
I am appalled at the lack of new businesses in the major high streets. No independent hairdressers. No hardware stores. Pie shops. Delis. Beauty shops. 50+ fashion. Childrens clothes stores. Baby - maternity shops. Teenage bag shops. Funky Accessory. Homewares.
Model shops. Computer sales and repair. Electronics. Independent TV and High fi. Proper sporting goods stores. And so on. You find all these shops still in small towns and villages where rents are low and rates relief high.
Modern business people are selling online. They set up at home and if all goes well they expand into a unit on a trading estate or farm building somewhere. But if these same people, selling.. ?? vintage sweets of yesteryear on line, could rent an outlet on a high street, as cheaply as they could a storage unit, surely many would?
Instead of having stock on shelves, they have stock on shelves, in plain view, that a passing public can purchase. This is an enhancement to their online presence. The shop sales, assuming even £50 sales a day, which is a truly terrible figure, still pays for the lights, heat, insurance, that would normally be funded from online sales. Sure, its more hassle for a sole trader. But it could , and should, be profitable enough to be worthwhile. And it regenerates the high street with plenty of one off, niche shops, that are currently existing in out of the way places. The inspirational , mind, body, spirit, silver jewellery seller can stay in business instead of becoming yet another Tesco extra.
Its rent and rates that are the real key.
Everything else is tinkering.