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Shop News: All Change In The Town Centre As Shopkeepers Cautiously Optimistic

Published on: 7 Jul, 2021
Updated on: 9 Jul, 2021

By Hugh Coakley

Guildford shoppers are witnessing a higher level of churn in town centre shops as business owners seek and take new opportunities in a renter’s market.

Those starting new businesses or renewing are holding off from committing to new long leases and empty shops are remaining empty, even in very prominent town centre locations.  The market conditions are giving some traders options to upgrade, cut costs or even both, depending on the timing of their leases and the outcome of negotiations with landlords.

But shopkeepers are cautiously optimistic, with one saying: “The last couple of months have been good but with footfall down, there’s a long way to go.”

As reported earlier, Lululemon, the yoga and active clothes wear shop, moved from the Tunsgate Quarter at the end of 2020 to what appears to be a smaller but well located shop next to the Guildhall.

Prestons, the jewellers are moving across the High Street to a beautiful old building.

Prestons, the jewellers, are moving to beautiful new premises opposite their existing shop in the High Street. There is an extensive refit going on now with the date yet to be announced for the move.

And Charmé, the independent jewellers in White Lion Walk, is moving to larger premises in Tunsgate, seeking to avoid the disruption from refurbishment work said to be starting in White Lion Walk soon.

Next have already moved out and, as reported in The Dragon, they will be opening in The Friary in the autumn. The Next branch in Ladymead remains open.

Next has moved out of White Lion Walk and will relocate to The Friary in the autumn.

Tunsgate seems to be really buzzing, especially on warm days, with a street scene developing around outdoor eating. The close grouping of Positano’s Italian restaurant, Gail’s Bakery, Pho’s Vietnamese food and Krema’s café is contributing to the lively atmosphere in the street.

Tattam’s, the café and cocktail bar in Tunsgate, has still not reopened after their kitchen fire in February this year. The Dragon has been told that it will open in September this year.

Montezuma’s opened in June 2021 in the High Street.

In other shop news, Montezuma’s, the luxury chocolate retailer, opened in the High Street next to Tunsgate, a welcome addition to that iconic area of the town.

Zero Carbon Guildford will be popping up in the ex New Look shop at the bottom of North Street.

Zero Carbon Guildford (ZCG) will hopefully (subject to discussions) get the keys soon to what was the New Look building (next to TK Max) in Friary Street. It is to be dedicated to community organising on the climate and ecological crisis. A spokesperson for ZCG said they will be needing “lots of hands to get it ready”. If you want to help, contact ZCG on their website.

Rumours that the ex-Gap shop in the High Street could be a gym.

And there have been signs of a re-fit in the ex-Gap shop at the bottom of the High Street. The huge premises over three floors, formerly Burton’s the tailors, was reportedly being converted into a gym. The report is uncorroborated but there has been increased interest by “service type occupiers” in the town centre say the agents, Owen Isherwood.

Fat Face in Market Street is closing later this month, reportedly due to high rent and rates.

Fat Face, the clothes shop in Market Street, is closing at the end of July, date to be confirmed. Godalming and Woking branches are staying open. A source said it was due to expensive rent and rates. Surprisingly considering the respective size of the towns, it has been reported the Godalming shop has been doing much better than Guildford.

We understand there is a restaurant interested in the ex-Costa unit in Swan Lane, in what used to be the Seven Stars pub.

A final point: have you tried booking an eye test recently? You may have to wait up to three months for an appointment. Boots were taking bookings for as late as September and Nicklins in upper High Street were quoting August as their earliest empty slot. Why is there such a backlog? Does anyone know?

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test 2 Responses to Shop News: All Change In The Town Centre As Shopkeepers Cautiously Optimistic

  1. David Smith Reply

    July 7, 2021 at 8:24 pm

    The backlog for eye appointments is due to everyone working at home still. The London branches have massive availability. Boots got me an appointment in their St Paul’s branch within a couple of days of requesting one.

  2. Martin Elliott Reply

    July 8, 2021 at 4:55 pm

    Interesting commercial/business summary, but given the remarks about there still being a low footfall, what are the thoughts and behaviour of shoppers?

    Apart from the judgement of reduced footfall, is there any measurement by GBC or Experience Guildford on the number of shoppers in the town? What are shoppers’ feelings on wanting to visit shops in Guildford? Or have a high proportion swapped to out-of-town, alternative towns or online?

    Has the radical change to car parking, without any consultation, found favour with residents? Six months on and the GBC has given no indications of success/support of that decision. Has any survey has been taken? The only statement from Cllr Steel is that businesses supports it.

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