Many high streets are doomed because the economics make it staggeringly difficult for independent, non-chain operators to get a foothold and to then make the numbers stack up.
Over the past few weeks there have been a number of stark examples in London of the system failing these businesses. The first involves Jewish cafe Gaby’s Deli on Charing Cross Road.
It’s been around for 50 years but it’s 71-year-old owner is now being shoved out by his landlord the Marquess of Salisbury who has received planning permission to have the site redeveloped by – just what we need – a restaurant chain.
It is just these sort of independent businesses with their quirks and character that make high streets interesting. But you can’t argue with the landlord if he can make a better return from another operator. That’s market economics.
Another desperate situation involves The People’s Supermarket (featured recently on Retailinsider.com) that faces closure over unpaid business rates. This co-operative food store was held up by David Cameron as a beacon of his ‘Big Society’ thinking. Among its virtues are its employment of ex-offenders and the long-term unemployed.
It was supposed to be at the vanguard of a move by the government to make it easier for communities to set up and operate co-operatives. But if it can’t pay the exorbitant business rates – that can be double the rentals on some shop units – then it’s gotta go. That’s market economics.
The final sorry tale involves the fall into administration of the Union Market supermarket/farmers market that opened in the former ticket hall of London’s Fulham Broadway tube station. The idea was for an independent business selling British seasonal produce to compete against the big supermarkets.
But an increase in the rent to £300,000 per year and the local council putting up parking charges for visitors to the area pushed the operation over the edge. But as we’ve said, if you can’t pay your bills then you can’t be in the game. That’s market economics.
There are no doubt many other similar examples around the country whereby interesting and independent businesses that bring vitality to the high street are doomed by the simple factor of the financial cards being stacked against them.
While this continues then it is hard to see how there is any long-term future for the high street. That, as they unfortunately say, is market economics.