Fringe Box



Sales Slump Fells Timberland But ‘Indies’ Filling Some Empty Shops

Published on: 29 Jan, 2020
Updated on: 29 Jan, 2020

The Timberland shop at the top of Guildford High Street closed so suddenly on Thursday, January 23, that staff did not get the time to say goodbye to each other.

Closing the Guildford branch of Timberland, in Constitutional Hall, has left a gap in the High Street at the junction with North Street.

Now the top of North Street and the upper High Street look desolate with rows of empty shops.

But as retail chains have shut down in Guildford, independent traders have moved in, keeping the number of empty shops reasonably stable, shows a seven-month survey by The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

Amanda Master, Experience Guildford, said the vacancy rate in Guildford, measured by Springboard, had dropped to 9.6% in October 2019 compared to 10.3% in July 2019.

She said: “Guildford is faring well compared to other towns. However, we can never be complacent. Amid tough trading times, we keep trying to support our businesses, put pressure on landlords to be reasonable with rents and demand central government reviews business rates now.”

The historic Constitutional Hall, occupied from 2014 by Timberland, has been home to various tenants including the Conservative Party when it was built in 1886, a cinema and a bookshop, Thorp’s.

A statement from Timberland, which had traded from Constitutional Hall since 2014, said: “Tough market conditions, industry volatility and business trends”, forced it to close half of its UK stores.

A sad note from Timberland staff in the sudden store closure. Click to read the note.

A rather sad note from departing staff in the Timberland window reads: “To Shane (our favourite delivery driver), Sorry we didn’t get time to say goodbye but you were the best. Team Guildford.”

Another somewhat mysterious message read: “Dear Mr Murder from Alton, We are sorry you never got to enact your contingency plan to bash our heads in….. now we have gone bust, your shoes have gone up in value due to rarity.”

Other national chains that have vanished from Guildford’s High Street over the past six months are Accessorize, Links of London and LK Bennett. Many others still struggling include House of Fraser and Debenhams.

A more mysterious note left in the window after Timberland shop closed in Guildford.

But The Dragon survey, showing the number of empty shops remaining stable at 47 over the past seven months despite falling footfall and sales, may indicate that “indies” and small, up and coming chains will be the answer for the high street.

New shops include Sicool, the Sicilian café in The Shambles, Il Gusto, the personalised gift shop in the Friary, Sis & Bros café in White Lion Walk, India Jane, a furniture shop next door to the ill-fated Timberland, Carmona, the Spanish restaurant and Schmidt Kitchens and Interiors, both in the upper High Street.

Design Vintage, the new shop in the Tunsgate Quarter, selling mainly Scandinavian furniture and home accessories.

And the Tunsgate Quarter has let another shop. Design Vintage, with some pop-up shops in London to its name and a permanent shop in Chichester, opened on the top floor selling mainly Scandinavian furniture and home accessories.

But there are still six empty units remaining in the high-end shopping centre. A spokesperson said that there were: “negotiations with interested parties at the moment.”

The Tunsgate Quarter still has a number of shops vacant from its opening in March 2018.

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Responses to Sales Slump Fells Timberland But ‘Indies’ Filling Some Empty Shops

  1. Alison Craze Reply

    January 31, 2020 at 2:26 pm

    Sorry to see the demise of Timberland, but even more sorry that the borough council would not consider change of use from retail for this property.

    A few years ago when Thorps the bookseller closed there was a proposal to establish an arts cinema in the building. The council turned it down.

    What a shame!

    We need places like this to bring life to our town centre now that online retail has hollowed out the high streets.

  2. John Lord Reply

    January 31, 2020 at 9:31 pm

    Sad for Timberland, and no surprise that Guildford Borough council previously turned down the use of an arts cinema as well.

    The councils sterile shortsighted attitude is one of the reasons Guildford is a cultural desert!

  3. Roslyn McMillan Reply

    January 31, 2020 at 11:34 pm

    Mark Gudgin’s proposal to open an arts cinema in Constitution Hall was well supported. But Guildford Borough Council chose to favour retail over culture.

    After a couple of false starts with the usual clothing firms, it decided to sell off this interesting building altogether in 2010.

    A very worthwhile project was made impossible when a property company outbid the supporters of the cinema and predictably eventually let it to yet another clothing store.

    In spite of the council, we do have some wonderful theatre and music in Guildford. But with a little less dedication to retail and a little more support for the arts, it could make Guildford a cultural oasis.

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