Business Not Affected

Thanks to Methers who spotted this above the old Threshers offy in Trafalgar Road. It made me snigger, then it made me want to weep. Things have got pretty bad when a street can’t support an off-licence, a bookies, an amusement arcade, a charity shop - or even a bloomin’ lap-dancing club.

I often hear from people who’d like to set up a shop in Traf-Road – with funky ideas and interesting suggestions.  Some of them will work brilliantly, some are so mad they might just pull it off, some are just plain bonkers and won’t last five minutes, but these guys would be willing to give it a go, and see what happens. Trafalgar Road should be an ideal place to test out  curious new projects - but these people tell me that, despite the embarrassment of choice for empty premises, rents are still so ridiculously high that normal people with fun ideas, without any kind of big backing, just daren’t take a punt on the business working.

Apparently, contrary to what I thought earlier, tax relief is only on the first three months of a property being empty (thanks, Anon, for pointing this out.) After that they have to pay full rates. Which puzzles me even more – I mean even given that apparently it costs the landlord money to set up a new rental and rents can be negotiated, why are they still not finding rates that would at least give people a chance to try, at the same time getting some rental for it? Even pop-up (whatever happened to ‘temporary’ ?) would do me.

Just imagine - a whole street full of interesting pop-up shops down Traf-Road – enough of them to create that critical mass the area so desperately needs to make the brave new stores such as Home Front, ToW and that new florist’s work as they should. There are enough artists, designers and fashionistas who’d love an affordable chance  to show off and sell what they create in local studios and make Traf-Road  the place to find cool stuff.

What do you think?  I’m told that it would be laughable to think that landlords leave shops empty deliberately when they could get a rental return. I’m also told by various people who write to me that they have tried to rent a place and the fees have been too high. There are usually around 30 empty shops on Trafalgar Road. If landlords have to pay rates and maintain a property anyway, surely some rent is better than none? Would a sliding scale of rents work, where the rent is low when a business starts up and gets higher as it becomes established and profits rise? I just don’t know – all I see is a demand on one side and a supply on the other and somewhere along the line the two aren’t meeting.

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12 Comments to “Business Not Affected”

  1. Penny Lane says:

    Didn’t know landlords got money for not renting out properties, thats outrageous in these hard times. I had exactly the same idea for Trafalgar Road. I wonder if someone approached the Council and put the idea to them. The local traders association are trying to turn it into a cultural corridor. I know that with the Olympics coming up it would be great if Trafalgar Road could look interesting and upmarket and people would have a chance to try out new ideas. Also the stalls may then follow and East Greenwich will become a place to shop like it used to be.

  2. Well – I could be wrong on the tax relief thing – but the way I read a couple of sites seemed to imply that. I think that a large number of pop ups with interesting local craftsmen would be a fab way to create a cultural corridor.

  3. Isn’t there a thing where councils now have the power to force the owners of empty domestic property to sell or rent? Surely that should be extended to shops – it would do Greenwich Town Centre some good too. The rents are kept high deliberately as far as I can see.

  4. Alice Mallick says:

    As someone who owns a property above a shop on Trafalgar road (luckily one that isn’t empty) – I totally agree that something should be done to force shop owners to rent out their premises.

    I think it’s shocking that Mencap were kicked out of their premises on Trafalgar road recently, I presume so the owner could claim tax relief!

    That charity shop was always buzzing with customers – particularly over the weekend. Surely there should be some incentive/benefit for shop owners to rent out properties to charities?

  5. will says:

    I wonder whether an empty shop strengthens the case for residential planning permission?

    If I were a freeholder on Trafalgar Road, I might be thinking of what were presumably large sums of money made by developing the Blue building, old Jet garage, and at least one pub (was it the Victoria?)into flats.

    I’m not such a person, so I think it’s a crying shame that people that want to open shops that will enrich the area aren’t able to do so.

  6. Mike says:

    @PennyLane – Tax relief isn’t quite the same thing as “Didn’t know landlords got money for not renting out properties”. It only makes a difference if they are making a taxable profit on their other activities. A loss or lack of revenue/cash flow is never a positive thing in business.

    Does anyone actually know what the old rent levels were and where the landlords are trying to hike them to? Were they unrealistically low?

    I agree though, parts East Greenwich is in a bit of a state. (Is this where it gets its “character” from?) Possibly something to do with the big question marks over the development of the south end of Blackwall Lane, the old hospital site and the fact that this is a rather deep recession we’re climbing out of. I seriously doubt any sane bank will lend money to startup retailers at the moment!

    Maybe increasing the population density will give the local shops the added footfall they need to keep their heads above water? More development on the Peninsular please.

  7. Anonymous says:

    Trafalgar Road – If rents are too high then eventually given the number of vacancies they will come down to a level which attracts tenants – that is after all how the “market” works.

    If however it is a question of business/covenant then that is a harder one to answer. By it’s very nature Trafalgar Road will always be a secondary location for either locals or transient passing trade, with the traffic problems and lack of parking it will never attract destination shopping which makes making a business work there very difficult, hence it’s current problems.

    My own feeleing is that until the centre of Greenwich or the East Greenwich scheme is finished Trafalgar Road is effectively at the bottom of the barrel and will not gain any spin off from either of those schemes (but could do if those schemes get up and running). From memory the shops are generally of a small nature with tight footprints so any national retailer looking to open at a cheap rate would be unable to. It also suffers from it’s linear nature with no natural “hub”. The East Greenwich scheme would the catalyst to improve Trafalgar Road as the Naval College acts as a natural barrier for encroachment from the West. It been a while since I looked at the East Greenwich scheme but I assume the recession has put the kibosh on it for a good while yet.

    We also have to accept that we are in the middle of one of the worst recessions since the 1930′s and at a time when everyone is looking to cut costs making any business start up more risky than it usually is so things may actually get worse before they get better.

    Any short term improvement would appear to be down to the current shop owners drastically slashing rents or owners/occupiers taking a punt on their various business ideas. The only other option would be a run of pound shops.

  8. “More development on the Peninsular please.” Actually – to be fair, several shops have opened in the oddly-named Oval Square recently. It’s actually looking a bit lived-in these days, but I haven’t made it to the cafe yet. No takers for the restaurant by the Ecology park yet, sadly.

  9. Mike says:

    @ Anonymous “The only other option would be a run of pound shops”
    - yeah, there was one on Trafalgar Rd towards Blackwall Lane. Until approx 2008 when it went bust.

    @TGP “Oval Square” is a brilliant name. Second only to the Northern Line announcement “the next station is Oval”.

  10. To be a bit of a cynic for a moment, we have this problem with empty retail properties on the stretch of main road into Stratford, which is the way many people will approach the park. In fact, its like this all over town – I think we all know what circumstances have brought this most recent decimation of local shops.

    Councils have to be amenable to knocking down their own internal barriers to pop-ups too – it’s worked well in some places but perhaps Greenwich and Newham councils just aren’t up to it…

  11. Nick Martin says:

    Although East Greenwich is my birthplace, and very close to my heart, it’s never really been the place to do any serious shopping. Even in the 1950′s and 60′s, when there were no superstores nearby, Greenwich was not the place to go, when you had Woolwich, Lewisham and Camberwell so close by. Even with no other local competition, Woolworth’s (where Blockbuster Video is now) was the only big shop in Trafalgar Road. Greenwich has always been a town of two halves, cut in two by the Royal Naval College and museum, and I think it always will be, especially in the current economic climate. What Greenwich really needs is something on the East side of the Museum, to lure tourists into that part of Greenwich.

  12. Steve says:

    The council could help buy sprucing the road up a little, ie. clear the vast amount of chewing gum and cigarette ends, and also plant a few trees along the road.

    For the large number of people who live within a few mins walk of the Traf Rd, it’s astonishing that there isn’t more variety there.