I did a series for Channel 4 many moons ago about the importance of local shops and the community. Ken Richardson had a hardware shop. An old people’s home was just around the corner. Mr Richardson, who’d been trading for over thirty years knew everybody. One day an old lady from the home, saw Mr Richardson putting his wares outside his shop.
‘Morning, Mr Richardson.’ she said.
‘Morning, Mrs Jones, how are you?’
‘Not sleeping well at the moment. I’m on my was to see the doctor.’
‘Do you fancy a cup of tea, Mrs Jones?’
Mrs Jones sat down with her cup of tea, told Mr Richardson about her woes, he sympathized and by the time she’d finished her tea she’d forgotten about going to see the doctor and went back home. She needed someone to talk to. That’s what local shops offer. People that you know, who are helpful and, most importantly of all... listen.
I can go through many examples of the importance of local shops. But they are closing faster than pubs. Why?
Here’s a clear example. A Jamie Oliver restaurant has just opened in our area. Not the best of nosh but he’s popular. Fifty yards away from Oliver’s there was a beautiful children’s book shop. It had been operating for over twenty five years. Now it has closed.
The reason is simple. In comes Oliver’s, the landlords of shops in the same street put the rents up. Their logic is that because Oliver’s in the area, more people will be around, therefore the renters of their shops will make more money, so why not the greedy landlords.
It’s horrible, it’s crazy, the ex-children’s book shop is empty, no one has taken it up. I suppose in time it’ll be a short let for an antique shop, a coffee outlet or, as most empty premises. are taken over by Charity shops.
I don’t know what can be done about it, no point in appealing to the landlords soft side! They’re like armadillos.
And Armadillos are ruthless and devour anything in their path.