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Ten Restaurants And Shops Close In High Street And North Street Within Three Months

Published on: 22 Jun, 2019
Updated on: 23 Jun, 2019

By Hugh Coakley

Ten restaurants and shops have closed in Guildford’s upper High Street and North Street in the last three months, with five closing in June 2019 alone.

Three empty retail units together now since Giraffe and Chilli Pickle closed this month. Maplins closed in June 2018.

Parts of the town are looking particularly desolate with several retail units in an area, or even in a row, becoming vacant.

Three adjacent units in upper High Street were dubbed the ‘Trio of Doom’ on Facebook after two restaurants, Giraffe and Chilli Pickle either side of the defunct Maplins, closed this month in quick succession.

‘Trio of Doom’ on Facebook. Giraffe and Chilli Pickle both closed in June 2019 while Maplins closed last year.

Six of the 10 businesses that have closed in the past three months are restaurants and food outlets including Chilli Pickle, Giraffe, Fresh Choices café, Burrito Loco, West Cornwall Pasty Co and Jamie’s Italian, all highlighting the pressure that the restaurant sector is facing.

Why have they closed? In general, people have the option to buy everything, from clothes to meals, online and this is cutting the number of customers going out to town centre shops. Further pressures include high rents and business rates which, even for a small shop unit in Guildford’s upper High Street, can be more than £1,000 per week.

The Cau restaurant closed suddenly nearly a year ago in July 2018. Like an abandoned Marie Celeste, the tables are all set for service that will now not happen.

‘Upwards only’ clauses in shop leases have meant that rents have been ratcheted upwards. While chains are using company voluntary agreements to force rent down, smaller businesses and independents cannot look forward to relief on their rent burden any time soon.

George Musgrave of Owen Shipp, the Guildford-based commercial property agency and consultancy, said: “The market for letting properties is cooler now but landlords are not ready yet to be talked down from their expectations on rent.”

Fresh Choices closed in March 2019 leaving three empty shops in a row after the post office moved to WHSmith in the High Street.

Guildford was bucking the trend though when it came to vacancy rates. Springboard, who provide retail data figures to Experience Guildford, showed an improving 5.8% of vacant shops in Guildford against a national average of 10.4% and 8.5% in the South East.

However, footfall has been declining nationally with a 3.5% year on year reduction recorded in May 2019. Locally, the picture has not been rosy either. Footfall has shown an alarming reduction each month, by between 2% and up to 23% in comparable months, for at least a year up to March 2019. No figures were provided for April 2019 and the May 2019 figures, which showed a surprising and significant 18% year to date increase, were said to be indicative only.

The Mexican cuisine chain, Burrito Loco next to the library, closed this month after, a source told The Dragon, that end-of-lease negotiations were unsuccessful.

Traders have called for a review of parking charges and restrictions to try to combat falling footfall in the town.

Cllr Caroline Reeves.

The leader of Guildford Borough Council, and lead councillor for sustainable transport, transformation and regeneration, economic development and governance, Caroline Reeves, said: “Although we can’t directly influence business rates or local market rentals, we work hard to create a positive town centre environment though investing in public spaces.

“Our parking fees are good value when compared to other large shopping centres in the area. We also held prices on parking last year except in York Road.

“Our parking strategy encourages long-stay workers, shoppers and visitors to use the popular park-and-rides schemes with electric buses and long-stay car parks to help reduce congestion. We have seen an increase in car park use as more people visit and stay longer in Guildford.

“We’re also investigating [parking] discounts for customers in some town centre shops and aim to expand our Green Permit scheme to encourage more electric cars.”

Cllr Tony Rooth

Cllr Tony Rooth, from Residents for Guildford and Villages, offered suggestions for improving footfall including a shuttle bus connection from the rail station, turning the derelict “Pop Up Village” site into short term parking, community meeting places in empty shops, charging points for cars and electric cycles, opening the Guildhall more to the public, displaying the council’s art collection to the public and improving the riverside along Bedford Wharf and Debenhams.

He said: “Guildford Borough Council need to activate, attract and reactivate our town centre

“Any major change takes time and money. R4GV wants to stimulate independent debate on how to change Guildford for the better.

“Ideas come from all people, not political parties.”

Cllr Susan Parker.

The leader of the Guildford Greenbelt Group, Susan Parker, said: “National economic conditions affect Guildford along with everywhere else.

“More changes in retail over the next few years are inevitable. I’d like to see us use some of the vacant developable land for low- to medium-rise housing, with a high proportion of social housing, rather than large retail stores, some of which will be hard to fill.”

The Labour group were asked for comments but had not responded at the time of publication. The Conservatives have said that they did not want to be contacted by The Guildford Dragon NEWS.

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Responses to Ten Restaurants And Shops Close In High Street And North Street Within Three Months

  1. Richard Hodgson Reply

    June 22, 2019 at 3:45 pm

    I and many other local residents presented all our ideas for how to improve Guildford town centre five years, or so, ago when invited to the GBC offices. We wrote these on yellow sticky notes and posted them all over the office meeting room walls so that the council could review and consider.

    Why is it, that absolutely none of these ideas seem to have been taken up? My strong impression is that the council is incapable of making any decisions to benefit the town centre at all. I hope I am wrong in saying this but sadly, expect not.

  2. Sean Jenkinson Reply

    June 23, 2019 at 6:18 pm

    It’s not just about parking charges, it’s the fact that it can take hours to get into the town and then hours to get out at times, the traffic system in and around Guildford is an absolute nightmare and now some bright spark wants to make Walnut Tree Close a cul-de-sac.

    That’s a big part of the problem with Guildford, it’s is much easier and cheaper to buy stuff online and a lot less hassle.

  3. GTS Reply

    June 24, 2019 at 11:20 am

    I would have thought the obvious answer to encourage people to shop in our town centre would be to allow 2 or 3 hours free parking for shoppers.
    Whilst it would be a short term hit on GBC’s finances, long term it would preserve them. There is no point offering “competitive charges” if footfall continues to drop and there are no shops left.
    We still have some nice shops / restaurants left and Guildford is still a pretty place etc, but that won’t be enough in this desperate times for retail.
    Free short term parking might very well be the differential that helps our town survive.

  4. Valerie Thompson Reply

    June 25, 2019 at 6:58 pm

    Only ‘Park and Ride’ makes shopping in Guildford feasible.

    Nearly all the fashion stores have massive sales offers at the moment. The shops can’t survive if footfall diminishes and rates and rents stay at excessive levels.

  5. Helena Townsend Reply

    June 27, 2019 at 8:46 am

    I’m not sure Guildford town centre needs to be improved in the locations where these shops vacated. There is nothing wrong with the part of town where CAU was located or Giraffe

    Perhaps we could report on some of the openings? A brand new Sketchers shop in The Friary – the new Greek restaurant in Chapel Street and there is a new shop where Preston’s Jewellers used to be (on the corner of the High Street and Jeffries passage) along with a skin clinic in the upper High Street. There has also been a planning application for a new restaurant at the old Maplin store which makes me think the High Street is fighting back.

    The Friary seems to be very busy and holding up well – is this to do with price point?

    If the council wasn’t preoccupied with the local plan challenges, they may be able to focus on issues like this.

    The Dragon replies: We go to great lengths to ensure that our reporting is balanced.

    Guildford continues to do better than many towns and our coverage on the issue reflects that. An analysis of The Guildford Dragon NEWS coverage shows that about two-thirds of our articles on retail in our town talk about new shops and retail successes. Only a third of our articles are reporting on shops closing or in trouble.

    Over the last few months, we have had articles on the following new and existing shops and businesses: Theion Greek Restaurant, Carbon Blush, Guildford Escape Rooms, Popworld Bar, Richer Sounds, Look Fabulous Forever, Kernow Model Railways, Swift Stitch, iStore, Purrfect Pets, Electrik Ink, Norbury Cheese, Loakes Shoes, Redber Coffee, Tunsgate Quarter, Amor Amora restaurant, Delicious Dishes restaurant, Sandiacre Nursery, The Shahin, Moffats, Michael Chell and Neom Organics.

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