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18 New Shops For Town Centre: Is There An Upswing In Retail Confidence In Guildford?

Published on: 7 Oct, 2021
Updated on: 10 Oct, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Retail in Guildford is looking rosier than for some time. With 18 shops opening, or planning to open, are we seeing a sustained upswing in the town centre?

Is 18 new and planned shops in Guildford town centre a sign of a sustained upswing in the fortunes of town centre retail?

Most of the new shops are food and service ventures and many are independent traders. With rents being slashed by up to 50% in the prime areas of town, some are using their buying position with landlords struggling to get tenants and are moving to better, sometimes cheaper, locations.

It is generally the smaller retailers who are deciding this is a good time to open a shop. But major brands are also showing confidence in Guildford with Boss upgrading their existing store just up from Tunsgate Arch and Tag Watches opening in Tunsgate Quarter.

Shopfitters take a break outside the new branch of Boss, one of the major brands opening up in Guildford.

The potential for an upswing was confirmed by a director of commercial estate agents, Owen Isherwood, Alex Bellion. He said: “The interest is there” with “good enquiries” for properties in the town.

But it isn’t all positive news. One trader told The Guildford Dragon NEWS: “Yes, lots of shops are opening but footfall is still down and trade hasn’t picked up yet. We still have the online competition. We are on the edge. Our lease break is coming up and if we don’t get a good deal, I will drive a taxi for a living.”

Shops opening include Zero Carbon Guildford at the bottom of North Street, Atto Korean Cuisine and Feng Tech in Swan Lane.

Zero Carbon Guildford is opening a new shop at the bottom of North Street on October 23 to “drive a community-led climate action plan”.

The desolate upper High Street should be looking more prosperous soon. Strutt Parker estate agents is moving to where restaurant Giraffe was located with reports that the former Maplin shop has an offer as well.

Also moving to the upper High Street include, Fired Earth, that has closed its shop in Chapel Street and Pizza & Pasta Boom, both just below the Royal Grammar School. Another food outlet is reportedly going to where the TSB bank was located.

The fashion and homeware chain Next has re-opened in The Friary, taking up a prominent position in the shopping centre.

There is a new seating area in Phoenix Court. Ideal for the lunchtime sandwich.

Charme the jewellers has moved from White Lion Walk to Tunsgate. The buzzing street will see Tattams, the cocktail bar and cafe, opening again in November with a complete refit after its fire in February this year.

The Ivy Asia in Tunsgate Quarter is said to be ready for customers in February 2022. It is having an extensive refit but that would be around six months for construction work to be complete. What is taking it so long?

The row of four empty shops in the upper High Street looks desolate but two of them should be occupied soon.

The  former post office at the top of North Street is under offer. That, together with the new zero waste shop, Solar Sisters, and Itsu, the Asian food store, moving into the former French Connection shop in North Street on the corner with Market Street, will make a huge difference as the building has languished for some time. Solar Sisters will be opening on Tuesday, October 12.

Laser Clinics, for skin care treatments, has opened in the High Street just below Market Street and the former Bamboo Shoots in Jeffries Passage is under offer to a food outlet.

Shoe shop Office in the High Street is now empty with racks and shop fittings being sold.

Shoe shop Office has closed its branch in the High Street. Laser Clinics has moved in next door.

In upper High Street, Carbon Blush has shut and, soon to go, McColls, the newsagent is closing on October 22. A member of staff who had been there for 15 years said it was due to the pandemic, the barriers for the temporarily widened pavement and the new Co-op opening nearby. She said: “It is the end of an era.”

Guildford Borough Council’s lead councillor for the economy John Redpath (R4GV, Holy Trinity), said: “It’s likely that negotiations with landlords have resulted in advantageous rents but that shouldn’t take away the fact that retailers still see Guildford as a great place to do business.

“It’s likely that Christmas is a driver in the current hubbub of fit-out activity and it will be necessary to take another look after the January sales to gauge the health of the town centre retail sector.”

While retail activity builds, there has been a marginal increase in empty shops in the town centre since June 2021. A Guildford Dragon NEWS survey (October 6) counted 60 shops empty, only one more than four months ago. The pandemic appears to have had a toll of around 13 shops with empty shop numbers at 47 just before the pandemic hit in February 2020.

No figures are available for the local, out of town shopping parades but reports suggest they are doing well.

The article was updated (October 10). The article said Boss has moved to Guildford. This has been corrected to say they are upgrading their existing store. The article said the new shops were mainly independent shops. This has been corrected to say many are independent traders.

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Responses to 18 New Shops For Town Centre: Is There An Upswing In Retail Confidence In Guildford?

  1. Janet Miriam Moorhouse Reply

    October 8, 2021 at 11:23 am

    Lower Guildford, i.e. the bottom of the High Street, needs a “useful” shop selling bread, milk, groceries etc for those residents in GU2 who are unable to climb the High Street hill.

  2. Peter Mills Reply

    October 10, 2021 at 1:29 pm

    The article suggests there are new independent shops opening and then reels off a number of homogenous high street brands that are opening up or simple changing location. And Boss has simply been closed for a refurb.

    Editor’s note: Thank you Mr Mills for pointing that out. The article has been updated (October 10). The article said Boss has moved to Guildford. This has been corrected to say they are upgrading their existing store. The article said the new shops were mainly independent shops. This has been corrected to say many are independent traders.

  3. Georgina Grant Reply

    October 13, 2021 at 8:12 am

    There seems to be little for us older folk who like to try on clothes and shoes before they buy.

    I hate online shopping for these, I want to see the colour, feel the fabric and assess the fit without the hassle of ordering, and then having to return items.

    I agree there needs to be a “useful” convenience shop at the lower end of town. I am not interested in coffee shops, fast food or laser treatments.

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