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Brexit Said To Be Hitting Guildford’s Retail Sector

Published on: 11 Jan, 2019
Updated on: 13 Jan, 2019

by Hugh Coakley

Brexit is hitting local trade says Guildford’s independent retailers.

Seven out of the ten local retailers interviewed by The Guildford Dragon NEWS reported that people were being cautious over spending. Several cited Brexit as one of the reasons.

Philip Denning, owner of Tom Fox, the bespoke tailors in Chapel Street, said: “It’s this boring Brexit stuff that’s causing uncertainty and this is affecting growth.”

Another trader who preferred to be anonymous said “Brexit has made people uneasy. It may not be the only factor but nobody knows what the future holds.”

Despite these fears, most shops interviewed said that business had been good over Christmas. Kris Tucknott of Unplug and Play, the board game café in Jeffries Passage said: “We only opened on December 22 and were really busy. We opened explosively.”

The majority also felt upbeat about trade in 2019. Lee Jackson of Electrik Ink, the tattoo studio on the London Road, said: “Every year is a challenge but I’m optimistic. I am passionate about what I do.”

Many of those who spoke to The Dragon said that trade was steady in 2018 “despite the doom and gloom”. One source said “2018 was bumpy but fine. Growth has stopped over the last couple of years.”

The cautious confidence from the “Indies” appears to be contrary to the national picture of flat sales overall in 2018 and falling footfall, especially in the latter part of the year.

January sales continue in Guildford High Street.

The Guildford Dragon NEWS had carried out a “straw poll” of mainly independent shops on Thursday, January 10.

Both rents and business rates came up as key issues which were affecting shops. Shopkeepers were hoping for rents and business rates to be more realistic and reflect the challenging retail market.

Ben Darnton in his shop in Tunsgate, Guildford.

Ben Darnton of Ben’s Collectors in Tunsgate, said: “Rents, business rates and parking charges are all increasing. All of these rising costs are against the tide of online shopping.”

Mike Leslie of Partisan, Cheesemonger and Deli in Chapel Street, said: “My business rates are £600/m2 which is higher than Mayfair.”

Daniella Williams, Carbon Blush beauty clinic in Upper High Street commented “Rents and business rates are so high that it stops new businesses starting up.”

Amanda Masters

Amanda Master, general manager of Experience Guildford who represents businesses and retailers in the town centre, said: “Guildford displayed a steady performance in terms of December footfall and trade despite a somewhat gloomier picture seen elsewhere. As per previous years, trade increased as we approached the last week of festive trading, with footfall for the week commencing 17 December increasing by 30% compared to the previous week.”

“Even though some chains are experiencing some difficulties nationally, Guildford’s stores appear to have done better than the brands have elsewhere in the UK.”

“The town centre will undoubtedly change considerably over the coming year with Brexit being a real concern for traders, because of uncertainty affecting consumers’ spending decisions.”

“True, the retail landscape is rocky and shall be for some time but Guildford may weather the storm better than others.”

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Responses to Brexit Said To Be Hitting Guildford’s Retail Sector

  1. Jules Cranwell Reply

    January 14, 2019 at 9:43 pm

    An announcement from GBC says they are reviewing the balance between retail and residential developments given the downturn in high street retail, with a view to a greater emphasis on residential.

    What took them so long? Given that many well-informed commentators have been telling them this for years.

    Have they suddenly discovered a thing called the interweb?

    In the meantime, they have blown a fortune of our tax pounds investing in retail space.

    It’s time for a change.

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