Increased rents and business rates 'damaging ' Scunthorpe town centre

By Scunthorpe Telegraph | Posted: 15 May 2017

Independent retailers and other outlets on Scunthorpe's High Street are in need of help, according to one local businessman.

Des Comerford, owner of Fallen Hero in Scunthorpe, said that the increased rents topped with business rates are harming the town's shopping street.

He feels so strongly about the issue that he told the Daily Mail that the business rates system needs overhauling if new businesses are to survive on the high street.

He said: "I wish the Government would realise that if you have a shop paying reduced business rates, it is still pumping thousands of pounds into the economy.

"But if you have a shop that can't afford to pay its business rates, then it's not worth anything to anyone."

The comments came as Scunthorpe town centre has seen a loss of big name stores over the years.

The former TJ Hughes unit in Scunthorpe which has been vacant since 2011

Both TJ Hughes and Marks and Spencer left the High Street in 2011.

The 42,000 sq ft Parishes Shopping Centre unit from which TJ Hughes departed has been empty ever since.

More recently, Wilko has decided to close down and vacate its premises in the shopping centre.

Despite reports that discussions were ongoing between the retailer and North Lincolnshire Council, Wilko told the Scunthorpe Telegraph that it was a "tough decision" to decide to close the store in August.

A spokesperson said: "The company said that the decision had been taken only after the most rigorous review of all the options and the likely effects on its loyal team members and longstanding customers in the town.

"This was a very tough decision. We've loved serving our customers in Scunthorpe but the lease is expiring and this coincides with continuing poor trading results in spite of the best efforts of everyone at the store.

More: Prime Minister makes pit stop at North Lincolnshire local on campaign trail

"Very sadly, we have found no viable option to closure but we'll be doing everything we can to support our team members who will be offered any available positions at our four other stores in the region. We apologise to our loyal customers in Scunthorpe and will continue to offer them great choice, value and quality until the last day of trading in the town."

But the number of independent traders in Scunthorpe has seen an increase more recently, according to latest figures.

According to the Local Data Company, there has been a rise in the number of such retailers in Scunthorpe town centre, compared to a drop in neighbouring Grimsby.

Last year there was a 1.5 per cent rise in the number of independents opening in the Scunthorpe town centre, while in nearby Grimsby the figure fell by 1.7 per cent.

Matthew Hopkinson, the spokesman for the Local Data Company, said: "Independents are becoming ever more important to our high streets. Year by year, the net gain of small businesses is accelerating, even as the net loss of chain stores increases.

"They are changing the face of our towns as well, as barbers and bars replace clothing shops and newsagents, with service and leisure gradually substituting for comparison shops."

Wilko, the Parishes Shopping Centre, which is set to close down in August

The figures come despite criticism from local traders of high rents and the need for reform of business rates.

The British Retail Consortium earlier this month co-signed a letter to all three major political parties calling for a reform of business rates. It called for a "fundamental reform" to rates.

A spokesperson for the BRC said: "The challenges businesses face as the UK negotiates its future relationship with Europe has made reducing the burden of business rates and fundamentally reforming the system even more critical."

So how do rents compare on northern Lincolnshire and the region's high streets?

Lease website shows rents in the Parishes Shopping Centre, Scunthorpe, being offered from between £39,500 and £270,000.

Outlets such as Cole Street in the Parishes shopping centre are on the market for £270,000 per annum and £200,000 for the former BHS site.

The Cole Street unit would also see potential marketers inherit an outlet with 20,964 sq ft of ground sale space.

However, on top of rent, tenants would also have to pay £134,278 in business rates.

At The Foundry in Scunthorpe, a 1,784 sq ft space is up for £52,500 with other rents around £35,000, while in Scunthorpe High Street, a 2,316 sq ft store is available at £70,000.

Smaller premises in The Parishes shopping centre are on the market for £75,000 and £99,000 per annum.

But how does Scunthorpe compare to other places?

Outlets in Freshney Place Shopping Centre in Grimsby are going for as much as £150,000 per annum.

They include the former Bodycare unit, 3,012 sq ft at £150,000 pa, a 594 sq ft unit once called Princess at £60,000 pa, the former Julian Graves, 446 sq ft at £35,000 pa, down to the former Health Rack (previously Tie Rack) at £25,000 pa.

In Hull, however, the cost of leasing an outlet is even higher - as you would expect with it being a city - with a unit in St Stephen's Shopping Centre costing £313,291 per annum at 7,268 square foot.

Meanwhile, in the Prospect Centre one unit is being offered for £210,000 for 15,203 sq ft.

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