At least 17 city centre businesses have closed their doors for good since lockdown – and the future of many more remains uncertain.
The equivalent of one business has closed every 37 hours in York since shops were allowed to reopen. The figures include national chains and independent traders – ranging from clothes shops to travel agents to restaurants, pharmacies and pubs.
Independent businesses are issuing a plea to residents to ‘vote with their wallets’ by supporting their favourite shops, cafes and restaurants.
And they are calling for a reform to rents and rates – among other measures to boost the high street.
But it is not all bad news – with one property agent saying there is still a lot of interest in small and medium-sized units from local businesses, as well as people keen to take over licensed premises.
Among the casualties in York are
- the Brigantes pub
- True Story cafe
- Knit & Stitch shop
- Boots Coppergate
- Patisserie Valerie Coppergate
- TM Lewin
- Random Encounter Pop Culture Café
- and two branches of Subway.
Trade is 50% down
Phil Pinder, chair of York Retail Forum, said: “The average shop in York is trading about 50 per cent down compared to last year, this is even worse for many indie shops and restaurants.
“Business rates need urgent reform, and need consigning to history in favour of a fairer taxation system that does not penalise the high street.
“Landlords need to look to helping tenants, who were trading fine before this crisis, to stay for the long term. Rents will have to fall, and maybe a move to rents based on turnover in a more strategic partnership approach.”
Johnny Hayes, chair of Indie York, said independent traders work to tight margins: “The important thing is we have really got to do our best to attract local people to use independent businesses. It’s about loyalty.
“I think people need to think about what businesses they want to see staying open in the city.
“If you shop with an independent, 85 per cent of your money will stay in the city. Independents are good for the health of the city and for the communities they create – look at the Supper Collective [which saw businesses deliver food to the vulnerable during the pandemic].”
Interest in Subway
He said Indie York is looking at events, such as a treasure hunt, that could help promote its members. And that local parades of shops – such as this is Acomb, Haxby, Heworth and Brishopthorpe Road, also need residents’ support.
Johnny added that new businesses have been starting up and joined the network: “That’s one of the impacts of people losing their jobs, they may start a business.
“And we have got such a good independent scene that if you want to start a business, York is the place to do it.”
Meanwhile Barry Crux, chartered surveyor at agents Barry Crux and Co, said there had been a “a very encouraging number of enquiries” about the former Subway on Clifford Street.
He said: “There is still very good demand for small units such as this, mostly from locally based individuals, some of whom would be start-up businesses and some established operators.
“We have also experienced confidence in the licensed property sector.
“Looking forward we see no reason why this trend should not continue and do expect to see a relatively healthy market for small to medium sized shops over the coming years.”