£10m ini­tia­tive lifts hope for High Street shop­pers

Bath Chronicle - - BUSINESS - Sam Peth­er­ick Chief re­porter @sam­peth­er­ick | 01225 322213 sam.peth­er­[email protected]­plc.com

2018 was a tough year for the high street. A squeeze on wages has left shop­pers with less dis­pos­able in­come to splash out in their favourite shops. Own­ers them­selves are hav­ing to fork out ever-larger chunks of their prof­its on rents and busi­ness rates. Mean­while, on­line mar­ket­place traders can op­er­ate with­out these bur­dens, a ma­jor fi­nan­cial ad­van­tage. In an­nounc­ing a £10 mil­lion fund­ing pack­age to re­ju­ve­nate lo­cal shop­ping ar­eas, re­gional mayor Tim Bowles spoke of the need to “em­brace the fu­ture of our high streets in the dig­i­tal age”. The fo­cus in Bath of the West of Eng­land Com­bined Au­thor­ity’s Love Our High Street ini­tia­tive will be on in­creas­ing foot­fall, at­tract­ing new uses and im­prov­ing lo­cal fa­cil­i­ties. The year drew to a close with the fu­ture of Jolly’s un­re­solved. The House of Fraser store is a pulling point to Mil­som Street in the north of the city cen­tre and its owner Mike Ash­ley is play­ing hard­ball with land­lords across the coun­try. Some of this year’s clo­sures have been keenly felt, up­set­ting cus­tomers and see­ing own­ers vent about the dif­fi­cult trad­ing con­di­tions, but many of the shop spa­ces have been filled with new busi­nesses. These are some of the shops that said good­bye to Bath this year _ and the ones who took over. Among them was Shan­non (now Sump­tu­ous De­sign­er­wear): Loyal cus­tomers were in tears when owner Sue Shan­non told them she was clos­ing her Wal­cot Street shop. She told us in April: “We’ve been be­sieged by peo­ple telling us not to go. “It’s been a dif­fi­cult de­ci­sion. It’s not the usual neg­a­tive story of a shop clos­ing. I’m re­tir­ing from a very suc­cess­ful busi­ness. “I just can’t keep go­ing at the level I do. It’s not pos­si­ble to slow down here with six day, 60/70 hour weeks.” How­ever, there was good news as a store sell­ing de­signer dresses and premium brand cloth­ing opened in its place. East, the clothes shop, in Mil­som Street, shut af­ter it was an­nounced that the chain had gone into ad­min­is­tra­tion. A huge sale fol­lowed. All clothes, ac­ces­sories and jew­ellery from last year’s sea­son were sold at half the orig­i­nal price, while there was a 20 per cent re­duc­tion on new stock. Ru­pert and Buck­ley’s home­com­ing lasted only seven months as the high-end fash­ion store closed its store in New Bond Street store in Sep­tem­ber. Its chief ex­ec­u­tive Alex New­man said shops like his are hav­ing a “ter­ri­ble time” amid the “on­go­ing tur­moil within the UK re­tail sec­tor”. How­ever, the New Bond Street store has cer­tainly been put to good use in the three months since. The char­ity Men­tor­ing Plus was able to open a pop-up store over the au­tumn half-term. It al­lowed its youth reps to sell clothes, books, toys, mu­sic and bric brac, gain work ex­pe­ri­ence and raise valu­able funds.

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