i Editor's Letter: Even in affluent areas, retail closures are painfully stark


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The Independent Online


Having enjoyed a "hyper-local staycation" (in plain English, not getting outside of west and south London on holiday) the scary rate of retail closures, even in areas that are supposedly more "affluent", is painfully stark. The national statistic, I saw last week, is 32 chain store closures a day. Plus independents.

In Chiswick, my home high street alone, the wonderful local sports store Sports Centre, supplier of balls, mouthguards, trainers and boots to the Hatfield family and all our friends, bit the dust yesterday. Add it to the local recent rollcall of doom: Whittards, Lara (fashion), Adamou (grocers), and the restaurants: Café Chiswick, Mooca Café, Brasserie Gerard. The Hart pub's gone too, plus the florist opposite, and the Back Store. At the other end of the high street, Dada records and Lombok furniture are notable casualties, and Oddbins and...

Bigger chains are doing just as badly. In nearby Hammersmith, Sports Direct is closing, too, just as it has in my Croydon hometown, further decimated last month by the demise of the iconic Allders, once Britain's third largest store, with the loss of 850 jobs. Kensington, i's home, has just seen Monsoon and Esprit go, Kew 159 will follow. It is carnage out there. And these are just a fraction of the local names I could mention in areas that are supposed to be affluent.

The local shopkeepers I ask say they can't afford the business rates, especially not given competition from the nearby giant Westfield Centre. I really don't understand the landlords. The properties sit empty; for weeks, months − years even. How does that work? Eventually they are filled: with a bookie's, luggage store, Costa, Sainsbury's, Tesco, or pop-up Christmas shop.

In all this bonfire of jobs and amenities, community is further destroyed. Lots of small establishments aggregated lead to a real big(ger) society. It's not only those shopkeepers and their staff that lose out when they close.

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