One of our shops is closing this weekend.
Hopefully, your first thought was something like…What a shame – that was my favourite shop!
But, I bet immediately following that, your next thought was something like:
The rent and rates are so high! I blame the landlords and council for squeezing out another business.
Or, maybe you blamed Brexit, or online sales?
Certainly, all of these contribute to the decline of the High Street. According to the Office for National Statistics, in 2017 online sales accounted for 19% of products purchased - and internet sales are only going to increase. Brexit and the resulting fall in the value of the pound has caused the price of petrol, food, and imported products to increase, inflation to rise.....and the amount of money people actually have to spend on non-essentials is decreasing.
And business rates and rent? Yes, they certainly have contributed to many High Street shops closing, but should we blame the councils and landlords? Well, first of all, councils don’t have anything to do with setting the rates – only collecting them. Rates are based on the value of a property as determined several years ago, which is almost certainly inflated as values have gone down a huge amount since then. So yes, the business rates can be unfair, but it’s not the fault of the councils. As for the landlords…. OK, yes, some of them are unscrupulous and raise rents because they have plans to develop the property and want to squeeze the small business out, but I don’t believe they are all to blame. Often landlords will allow shops to be used short term as pop ups (this is how we started) and can be very flexible about rent. We probably wouldn't even exist, were it not for the fabulous landlord we have in our other shop.
It's been a very tough year for retail, and it's not just the small independents closing. Toys R Us, Maplan, Prezzo, Mothercare, and even Poundworld have closed or are in difficulty.
It’s so easy to say the High Street is dying and it’s the rent and rates again, it’s because of online sales, or it’s Brexit.
So sad the shop is closing, but it’s their fault.
Your thoughts are already moving to the next thing.
But the job isn’t done.
Sorry, blaming someone else and then feeling that you've done your bit is not helpful.
If you love our shop – or any of the other one of a kind, boutiques, or maybe the family owned corner stores, traditional butchers, quirky cafes or cosy bookstores…. If you want to save those shops and if you don’t want the High Street to turn into a ghost town……You’re going to need to do more than just point the finger at someone.
You’re going to need to put the phone down, get out of your chair, go down to the High Street, and spend money.
There – I’ve said it. The truth is, blaming the council or the landlords isn’t going to save your favourite shops. YOU need to do it.
Here’s the thing……If our shop had a few thousand people through the door every day, each spending just a pound, it wouldn’t matter if the rent was tens of thousands of pounds a month. Obviously, that’s a silly example - but the truth is, in the space of just one year the number of people coming through the doors of our shop has plummeted more than 80%, and so has the amount of money we’ve taken. Without money coming in, we can’t pay the rent no matter what it is – or the rates, wages, electricity, phone, music licences, packaging, promotion….…None of it.
Pointing the finger is a bit lazy, isn't it? It doesn't really do anything, and we need something to be done.
Don’t worry, you don’t have to do it alone. We’re not looking for a rich benefactor to grant us millions of pounds (OK….so maybe that would be nice). We don’t want you to be afraid to come into our shop because you think we’ll expect you to spend huge amounts of money or we won’t want to see you. We like you. We want to see you, and we don’t mind if you only buy one greetings card, one coaster, or a bookmark. The only thing is…. you need to tell your friends to do the same thing. And they need to tell their friends. And then you need to go to that quirky café and buy a coffee and a croissant and chat about the book you bought in the cosy bookstore. And you need to do it next week as well. If everyone tries to spend just a little in their local shops, they can save them.
So, sure....blame landlords, rates, Brexit, and online shopping for killing the High Street.
Just don’t stop there. Go out this weekend and spend a pound or two in a local shop.