View from the street: Use our shops and show you care
- Credit: Archant
A recurrent theme in the news agenda seems to be bad tidings about shop closures and morbid prophesies about the future of our high streets.
Doom-mongers talk of death throes and cite disappearing footfall and plummeting sales as evidence. Big brands and thousands of jobs (mainly women’s) disappear monthly – Debenhams, Toys-R-Us, Homebase, BHS, M&S, Jaeger, Poundworld, Maplin, Mothercare.
On a recent mid-morning bus ride to Tottenham Hale station I was struck at the number of closed or empty shop units on Turnpike Lane and West Green Road – even Wood Green High Road seems to have lost its bustle.
Yet, on the same Saturday in Crouch End, the Broadway was busy and lots of people patiently queued in Waitrose, the Co-op and Purkis.
But can Crouch End continue its apparent immunity to what is not just a London phenomenon? For independent traders it must feel that there is a conspiracy from all sides to make it harder to earn a living.
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The fortunes of bricks and mortar shops have been challenged by online shopping (currently estimated to account for 20 per cent of retail sales, one forecast suggests that by 2020 it could reach 34pc) and rising costs.
In addition, business rates have been recalibrated to better reflect property values: in some areas rates would fall while in other, more buoyant, areas (like Crouch End), they would rise. So, a typical shop (not actually on the Broadway, but close) has seen its 2016 bill rise from £7,500 to £10,500.
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Rents also continue to creep up with £60k for a prime site not being uncommon; the minimum wage has (thankfully) increased; interest on capital borrowing is starting to rise; the utility companies are insatiable and other costs keep creeping up.
Amazon is putting its toe in the pond of fresh and prepared food delivery and Deliveroo has opened a kitchen in Hornsey. It will now not only deliver but actually prepare food: no one yet knows what the impact on our restaurant/night-time economy will be.
Crouch End’s footfall is stuttering as the impact of the new Sainsbury starts to be felt.
Adding to the complexity faced by the shops in Crouch End is the recent arrival Kerb on the Town Hall Square. They got off to a flying start with the sun shining on the twenty attractive stalls offering street food and some produce.
Time will tell if it attracts people to Crouch End and also whether it will erode the niche carved out by years of hard work by the Crouch End Festival and also upset locals who see their only green space occupied by stalls.
The Economy section of the Crouch End Neighbourhood Plan will explore how planning policies could sustain our varied and popular selection of 200+ businesses.
It is important that we all have our views heard so please crouchendforum.org.uk/ to sign up and start receiving the newsletter.
But don’t forget, the best (and the nicest) way to support our shops is to use them!