Steep rents and long leases put-off new stores
DURING the meeting at St Denys' Church on Wednesday evening one young lady brought up the subject of high rents for shops and although it was nothing that the town council wanted to discuss then, in my opinion it is a serious matter for Sleaford in particular.
We are always asking why are there so many empty shops and in nearly all cases it is because the landlords are charging far too much for rents together with their insistence on long leases.
This is why shops are closing down, not just because of the threat of Tesco Extra. Neither is it necessarily to do with online shopping, although that can affect the risk of opening a shop. When Castledines closed, it was probably struggling against online shopping. But where do you go now for excellent, after sales service?
Often shop premises are owned by insurance and pension companies. They have no idea that towns like Sleaford are struggling in the recession and probably they are not interested anyway. It beggars belief that they are quite happy to see their shops empty rather than ask a more realistic rent and negotiate shorter term leases.
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Unfortunately, the inevitable outcome is that these empty shops are taken up by charities which can afford the rents and who have special concessions allowed by the council for their rates. Where they are not charity shops they will be Estate Agents, hairdressers or shops that sell a multitude of similar cheap and cheerful goods. How they all make a living goodness only knows.
Unless something is done by the government or local councils to make it a level playing field where rents and rates are concerned, there will be even more empty shops in the near future. It is as though there is a conspiracy to rid all towns of their independent retailers and make them all look dreary and boring.
It was obvious at the meeting that everyone who lives here actually likes Sleaford and enjoys the pleasant surroundings especially the Rec. I know the summer has been exceptional and has given everyone a couple of months to enjoy the gorgeous weather; it is always a town where you can meet your friends and enjoy a coffee for a chat. Carre Street is a particular favourite of mine. You can enjoy a visit to the Carre Gallery where some excellent art exhibitions take place. Follow that with a visit to the National Centre for Craft and Design where you can enjoy a coffee and a walk around the building looking at some very interesting exhibitions which can stretch the imagination.
All we need to do now is to sort out the landlords.