Fringe Box



North Street – Shopping Survey

Published on: 26 Mar, 2012
Updated on: 2 Apr, 2012

By Martin Giles

How many business premises lay empty in North Street would you guess? There are actually eight empty shops at the moment, representing 13%, more than one in ten of the total.

We also hear that ‘Game’, the Guildford branch of which is tactically positioned next to Burger King at the bottom of North Street, is in trouble, nationally. Perhaps it will soon be the ninth.

Is it a sign of the recession? Well perhaps, even prosperous Guildford cannot be immune. There is, probably, significantly less disposable income around, even in leafy Surrey, than there was a few years ago.

It must also beg the question, is there an appetite for another major retail development in Guildford at the present time? No doubt there are some big name stores like ‘John Lewis’, as one citizen mentioned in a recent street survey, that could be attracted but what would be the impact on the business that are already here?

It is less surprising, probably to find that of the shops doing business, clothing represents the biggest category. This is similar to the High Street of course and it is likely that clothing is one sector that is less vulnerable to what seems to be the inexorable march of internet shopping.

Most of us like to try something on before we buy. It is notable that all the clothes shops hug the south side of the street perhaps trying to obtain maximum benefit from any conducted heat from bigger trade in clothes on the High Street.

Practically and psychologically, the width of North Street, the amount of traffic and lack of pedestrian crossings make the street quite an obstacle. Shoppers tend to only venture across to the north side of the street if they have a particular need to go to one of the stores – browsers tend to stick to the south side where they can easily cut back through to the High Street.

North Street has, of course, always been the poor relation to the High Street. Ironically the pleasant and wide street that our Victorian predecessors constructed with some fine public buildings declined over the years and whilst our post war economy gradually improved more and more redevelopment has left what many regard as an untidy street, with a miss-mash of incongruous styles.

Guildford Borough Council has recognised the problem and longs to redevelop the area between Commercial and Leapale Roads. Plans all seem to hinge, though, on whether the bus station can be moved and there appears to be considerable resistance to that proposal.

In the meantime, the British Retail Consortium reports that retailers are doing their best to work with local government and other businesses to improve high streets and town centres across the country, but with an average business rates increase of 5.6%, the UK’s retailers are having to find an extra £350 million in rent in 2012. With costs up and sales down, it’s more important than ever that Guildford’s shoppers are encouraged to spend time and money in  quality retailers, and an improved environment that makes it easy to do so would certainly help.

What do you think? Will we see more empty shops. Is the development a good or bad idea. Will the whole face of our shopping streets change? Is moving the bus station a price worth paying?

Please do send us your thoughts by email or by using the ‘Comment’ facility below.

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Responses to North Street – Shopping Survey

  1. Cllr Caroline Reeves

    March 28, 2012 at 8:41 pm

    The Borough’s Environmental Projects team are currently working with Surrey County Council on a scheme called the North Street Enhancements. They plan to replace the pavements with a higher grade of paving, the historical steps will be made safe and there will be new planters and trees.
    Any new installations will be able to be moved so that they can be incorporated in the bigger scheme for the area when it is finalised. The plan is to upgrade North Street so that it isn’t the High Street’s poor relation, and to make the environment more enjoyable. At long last the market traders will have better surroundings, and the empty units will be snapped up.