Two shops close on Shambles – Retailers say high rents are forcing stores out

High turnover… Shambles in York. Photographs: Richard McDougall
2 Jan 2020 @ 6.44 pm
| Business

Two shops are closing on Shambles – and traders in the street say that high rents set by the council are a big part of the problem.

Leather bags specialist Zatchels closed just before Christmas.

The shop opened in summer 2014, and was a big supporter of York Pride.

Its closure came about after the company, which began in Leicester in 2011, went in to liquidation.

In a statement Zatchels said:

  • It is with profound regret we have to inform you that Zatchels has ceased trading and will be put into liquidation over the coming days/weeks with the loss of 43 jobs.

    This, of course, couldn’t have happened at a worse time of the year.

Costs shoot up

Essence of Peru
Meanwhile colourful indie retailer Essence Of Peru will close on 12 January.

Well known for the cuddly llama which stood outside the shop and starred in countless selfies, the shop sold ethically produced children’s toys and clothing hand crafted in Peru.

Owner Rowena Johnson established Essence of Peru in 2009, opening the Shambles shop in 2015. She told YorkMix that Brexit had taken its toll:

  • The reason for my leaving, quite frankly, is because of the detrimental effects of the referendum.

    As a small business importing from Peru and paying in dollars, overnight our stock costs went up by 25%.

    Add this to the economic downturn of people spending less, meant that it just became too much of a struggle to pay the bills.

Rowena said those who voted to leave the EU in 2016 “don’t seem to understand the repercussions of what they voted for”.

She now plans to move back into her previous field of health and social care. The business is up for sale with Barry Crux here.

‘Council was warned’

Closed: the Zatchels shop on Shambles
Phil Pinder of Shambles Traders Association had to close the Pinder & Scott bakery he co-owned on Shambles last May, partly due to high rents.

He told YorkMix:

  • It’s always a shame to hear of business failing, especially in a vibrant street like Shambles.

    As a group we have been warning of this for some time. The council as majority landlord have been pushing heavy rental increases, which we warned would lead to this.

    I only hope that common sense will now prevail, and more independent businesses are not forced to close.

    Shambles has a very high turnover of shops, I myself had to close a loss making business in the street due to high rents.

City of York Council owns about 70 per cent of the units on Shambles. Last summer the council increased rents by about 10 per cent at a time when the retail sector was under huge financial pressures.

Best value

The note in the Essence of Peru window
Head of commercial and operational asset management at City of York Council Nicholas Collins said: “The Shambles is a highly-sought-after commercial location, which continues to attract millions of tourists, and demand for the properties in the area is high.

“The council manages a significant commercial estate, the income from which helps to fund council services.

“Like any landlord, we aim to ensure that we achieve best value for our properties, regularly reviewing market value to make sure we achieve the right balance between rent levels and commercial viability.

“We are always willing to discuss individual circumstances with our tenants and work to support local business.”