Thursday, 25 October 2007

Empty shops

Walking through the Queen Street arcade yesterday for the first time in a while, I was shocked at the number of empty shop units: 8 out of 24.

I have a job vacancy in my shop at the moment, and among the usual mix of east European and Asian immigrant applicants were employees from Adams, one of the main stores in the Cornmill Centre. It seems Adams is to close in a couple of weeks. I understand the rent and rates in that unit are too high, given the squeeze that the high street retail trade is under.

News also reaches me - confirming a prediction reported several months ago by Nick Wallis - that landlords are trying to maximise rent levels in the town, now that the Pedestrian Heart is complete. If landlords are successful in their increased rent demands it will be a short-sighted move. Retail business in Darlington is still weak. Competition from out of town supermarkets, major centres like Newcastle and the Metro Centre, and on-line retailers, is squeezing the traditional high street retailer.

The new Oval development (pictured above), on which work will start next year, is a big gamble. Is our town big enough to sustain the large fashion chains that are supposed to fill it? If it works, it will help our town compete with other retail centres in the region. If it doesn't, we'll just have more empty shop units.

Landlords have to realise that they must temper their demands for ever increasing rents in order not to put their tenants under excessive financial pressure.


miketually said...

I don't think the Cornmill has ever had every unit filled.

Anonymous said...

Why do Local Councillors not adhere to any privacy policies? If I had just been interviewed for another job vacancy I most certainly would not like a Darlington Councillor to spill the beans to the world and his wife on the internet. Could they ALL PLEASE WAKE UP TO THEIR RESPONSIBILITIES. It seems that they all like to be first on their bloggs with news and more importantly, to them, GOSSIP, NAME CALLING AND SPREADING PRIVATE INFORMATION. THERE IS NO DEFENCE!- ONLY APOLOGIES FROM ALL COUNCILLORS WHO TAKE PART CLOSELY FOLLOWED BY PROMISES TO CEASE WOULD SUFFICE. WE AWAIT YOUR REPLIES - ALL OF YOU - YOU ALL KNOW IF THE CAP FITS YOU .

Ian White, said...

Anonymous, are your initials KD by any chance?

Anonymous said...

What's this to do with shops closing down?

Mike Barker said...

It is public knowledge that Adams is closing. Darlington Town Centre is a small community. Retailers talk to each other. News circulates. It isn't "gossip" or "private information." I could tell you about another business that is on a knife edge, but that WOULD be irresponsible. (By the way, Dawson and Sanderson has now closed too).
Reporting the fact that Darlington Town Centre is struggling - as is evidenced by empty shops, closing businesses and anecdotal comment - is not irresponsible. The Labour Council would have you believe that the town centre is booming. That's just bollocks.
Anyone who has worked or shopped in Darlington over the past 25 years knows that the town, particularly on a Monday and Saturday, is much quieter now. The outdoor market is a pale shadow of its former self.
Personally, I support the Oval development. It's a risk, but if the town centre is to reclaim its lost shoppers it has to do so by giving them the big high street fashion stores. Then combine that with our excellent independent shops and, hopefully, a revitalised market and Feethams area, and the town might start buzzing again.
For me, it's a shame that the Oval will have a leisure compex on the top floor. I think that would have been better off as a car park, with the leisure complex being built in Feethams.
Interestingly, at a Conservative Party front meeting earlier in the year, disguised as an open meeting for town centre retailers, very few of whom attended, only Tony Richmond put his hand up in support of the Oval development. The party of enterprise (ahem!) was firmly opposed to the development.

Anonymous said...

Another reason for the decline is out of town shopping centers with free parking , have the council put in parking meters in those car parks and give the town centre shops a equal playing field.
Also you can rent a shop in the Shambles York from 10500 per anum with much lower rates
Shops in Queen street start at 20000
the corn mill start from 55000

Anonymous said...

If the work on the ovel doesnt start soon do they have to reaply for planning , If so dont give them it

Mike Barker said...

Wow! Someone's been reading a long way back on this blog.
There is no chance of the Oval development being revived in the foreseeable future. If and when it is, the original planning application time limit for the start of work would have expired and a new application would have to be made.

As for rent levels: as far as I can recall, most of the shops in the Shambles are small and oddly shaped: not very attractive for modern retailing, which is perhaps why it is dominated by cutesy food and gift shops.