Traders struggle through a difficult new year
TAX increases, soaring business rates and rents and the ongoing parking issues shoppers face in Hampstead village are providing a difficult start to the new year for the village's traders. Small shops across the area, already struggling in
TAX increases, soaring business rates and rents and the ongoing parking issues shoppers face in Hampstead village are providing a difficult start to the new year for the village's traders.
Small shops across the area, already struggling in the recession, have been doubly hit by the increase in VAT and tough parking regulations in the area they say are turning shoppers off.
And at the time when shops should be enjoying bumper January sales success, they have been left out of pocket and fearful for the rise in business rates due to come into force in April.
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Eftychid Georgilis, manager of Heath Street clothing boutique Co Chine Chine said: "There have been a lot of closures in Hampstead, and the rates are up, in some cases by 40 per cent.
"What is really upsetting is that Camden council is not going to do anything to help us."
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The decline in business has been hard felt throughout the area in 2009 with many shop-owners blaming Camden Council's over-zealous parking regime as a major turn-off for visitors.
In the run up to Christmas the Ham&High campaigned with traders for free parking to lure shoppers in in the festive period, similar to the project successfully carried out in Crouch End by Haringey council.
Yet Camden Council refused to relax the rules.
Veronica Ford, owner of party shop Mystical Fairies said: "Parking in Hampstead is the biggest problem for us, the council need to change their policy. People won't come here because of it."
Business owners are also concerned about the effect of road works, making the area unattractive.
Helen Sherman, owner of Rosslyn Deli on Rosslyn Hill said: "It's not great... two sets of temporary traffic lights doesn't make anyone want to stop and changing VAT rates is conducive to any business."
High-end shops and small shops alike are swallowing the VAT increase to avoid raising prices.
Both Kurt Geiger and Crabtree and Evelyn will not be increasing their prices despite VAT going back up 17.5 per cent. While Mystical Fairies and the Rosslyn Deli are among many more small shops doing the same.
The decline in the standard and variety of shops in the area has also made shoppers turn away, some traders argue.
Another clothing shop owner, who asked not to be named said: "Hampstead High Street's dead for fashion now. Look around - people just come here to buy bread."
Cllr Linda Chung, founding member of NW3 Hampstead business group, said that parking and increased rates were regularly brought up by traders: "People who run business say they want more support from Camden Council, easier parking and they want everything that enables their business to run smoothly without worrying about finances.
"We want more people walking the streets rather than it being totally quiet and dead."
A council spokeswoman said: "We are providing a wide range of practical support to local businesses throughout the recession. Initiatives including the love your local high street and Christmas shopping campaigns, backed up by training for small independent retailers aim to get more people to shop locally and visit Camden's independent businesses.
"The council is exploring the possibility of opening up 'pop up shops' in Hampstead to attract shoppers.
"We are looking to improve information on available parking around town centres. We are keen that the parking on offer in our town centres matches the demands of business deliveries and customers and we will consult with businesses and residents on potential changes to parking in Hampstead town centre during 2010.