And they wonder why our High Streets are dying

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The Worthing Herald, Worthing, West Sussex, as well as the Portsmouth News, and others have reported on the closure of a profitable gift shop for men in the town or Worthing. And this is but one of many stores that are forced to close its doors because they cannot afford the rent hikes and/or the over the top business rates.

Profitable gift shop closes due to high business rates (Portsmouth News)

The Mens Gift Shop, in Montague Street, Worthing, a profitable gift shop, would not be closing if “antiquated” business rates were halved to help small retailers, its owner, Michael Smith, has said. The shop has been trading profitably for the past 13 years but have closed by the end of February 2015.

Mr. Smith has launched a stinging attack on the business rates system, which he views as out of date and favoring larger firms.

He said: “The biggest problem for us is the antiquated system of business rates, which is just not fit for purpose. If rates were halved, then we would not be shutting”, and he believes larger retailers and online firms such as Amazon have the advantage on smaller traders due to complex business rates calculations, which have not been updated for years.

He said: “Once a shop hits 1,850 square meters, it becomes a large shop and rates are capped at £70 per square meter. We pay £350 per square meter.

“A company like Amazon would pay £35 per square meter. They pay 10 per cent of what we do because it is classed as a warehouse. Amazon isn't a warehouse, it's a retailer.”

It would also appear, it has to be said, that in many towns and cities of the UK, priority seems to be given to large chains and and supermarkets rather than to individual retailers and craftspeople as far as stores go and the reason for that I may leave the reader to think about. We may all be wrong as to what our thoughts on that are but, then again, we may all be correct.

If we, and that is all of us, want a thriving high street and towns centers then we must demand from the councils that a different approach is being taken and that independent shops are given the priority over those from the large chains, whether those be Teso, Sainsbury's. Morrisons, Asda, Pound Shop, or Amazon, Argos and the like.

Independent retailers and craftspeople make a town center something that you want to go to and, yes, grocers, butchers and greengrocers too are needed. In fact everything from the butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker, and everything in between.

© 2016