Friday 25 January 2013

Big names, empty shops

A frequent criticism of Carmarthenshire County Council, and not just in this blog, is its infatuation with brand names, chain stores and supermarkets when it comes to retail development. St Catherine's Walk in Carmarthen is full of them, and you could be in any shopping precinct in England if it weren't for the Welsh accents. The same is true of the new East Gate complex in Llanelli, and the council explained recently that there was a preference for big retail names because they offer landlords the prospect of long-term stability and security. Helped along, of course,  by all sorts of special deals and free advertising by the Council, which continuously promotes names such as Nandos, Harvester, Costa Coffee and the rest through its PR machine.

You have to wonder how true this argument is following the collapse of Woolworths, Jessop's, Clinton Cards, HMV and other big names. In this part of the world Trade Secret and Seconds Ahead, chains which both sold discounted clothing, have also gone bust leaving gaping holes in the High Street.

And it's not just the ones which are going to the wall. Recently H Samuel and Dorothy Perkins announced that they were pulling out of Llanelli after many years of trading in the town. It seems that endless contractor work and disruption in the town have played their part in the decisions.

Of course small businesses shut up shop too, but they tend not to leave massive gaping holes in the High Street when they go, and when you look around our towns, it is often precisely the small, local retailers who seem to be hanging on in there when the multiples give up.

As often as not, they survive despite rather than because of the Council and its visionary regeneration schemes.

But it's not all doom and gloom as far as the big names are concerned. Some are still expanding, as we can see here:

Deal exchanged at Unit 7b, Eastgate, Llanelli to Ladbrokes. Only a few units remain! Contact Owen Cahill for further information. 

That little announcement followed hard on the heels of news that the developer was seeking change of use for the empty Unit 7 from A1 (shops) to A2 (Finance and Professional Services) due to lack of demand.
Cllr Pam Palmer, Deputy Leader of the Council and Independent supremo, was recently in one of her letter-writing moods as she railed against advertising by betting companies on the telly.
It will be interesting to see what she has to say about Ladbrokes opening up in the shiny new family-oriented East Gate shoppertainment complex.

What next? A pawnbroker, a massage parlour and a slot machine arcade perhaps?


towy71 said...

Perhaps the PR dept. could use some more space ;-)

Anonymous said...

Up here in Wrexham we have a similar problem with a council that for the past thirty years has been seemingly in thrall to the idea of attracting Big Retail. The problem with the latter being that it leaves Big Unlettable Units when it either expires or decamps to the latest out of town retail park.

There is a widespread perception that the town centre is dying on its backside as a result, with the latest wheeze up at Tammany Hall being an exercise to improve the perception itself. Apparently the town is booming, its just that all those empty shopfronts somehow blinded us to it.

jsw said...

typical innit.. ladbrokes et al are prime candidates for every high street to generate income. How much is the rent at eastgate?

i'm suprised at dot perkins and samuels upping sticks because of building work. Fair enough if the building work was taking place virtually on their doorstep and restricting customer access and inconvenience, too many firms are blaming projects for the downturn. If people haven't got money, they haven't got money and there's not a lot they can do about that, unless they source new suppliers and offer cheaper goods, but that could end up with low quaility items which they wouldn't want. Everybody has to 'bear the brunt' for a while whether it's paving work on their steet or building a ladbrokes come cinema quarter of a mile away :( regeneration and other works can cause inconveniences no doubt and people start to avoid a certain area until the work has finished... Llanelli's hmv in trostre went last year, well before the recent news.

then again, stead and simpson shoe shop on ammanford closed down due to general trading conditions and would have gone whether they had new paving or not. one other shop had a sign up saying lack of profit was the source of shop closure and the works had some bearing on that as they were operating on a very tight margin. The shop next door also closed blaming the regen work.. god knows what happened to the newly opened hairdressers after an expensive refit etc, they closed down... and yes, ammanford is still very quiet even after a 900k refurb..

jsw said...

so, there we have it. business rates, leases and car parking charges are the primary causes of town centres..not necesserily in the order

but we known that all along. business rate rise is a factor but not as much as we may like to think, the lease is a bigger factor, as for carparking charges, i always looked at the possibility of overcharging, but no-one still hasn't scrutinised it and i doubt if anyone is going to do it. and if people are going elsewhere because of overcharging, council's have themselves to blame for it.

as for the former tesco chairman's recent comments of Terry Leahy's comment that small shops closing was "a part of progress"

that may be true in some respect, but it's a different ballgame when carparking charges are contributing to it. when the supermarket was in the town, everybody benefited, but there is a slight flaw in that theory. the co-op carpark in ammanford for example is chargeable.

not forgetting llanelli's own tesco was in the town before trostre.

If there was a way of charging for customers to pay at tesco etc, what difference is that going to make in the long run? asda make a charge that is claimable off the shop bill. which i don't particulary like as sometimes someone is not doing a foodshop but going in for one specific item and if it is not in stock, tough.

if samuels were offered a cheaper out of town unit, would they go? or is it an overall general trading situation and losing profit as a company, or is it the llanelli shop is losing money?

tbh i was a bit suprised jenkins moved in which is bold of them, they have to sell a lot of pies to keep going when they say it will not affect their existing shops in Llanelli, i say good luck to them, but as eastgate is meant to be a leisure complex and not a retail one, i suppose jenkins would be handy if you're a bit peckish whilst waiting for a bus.