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13 May 2012

Empty Shops

I'm not sure what I wanted this post to be about, I'm not politicly educated enough to go through the issues of why and what can be done about this problem I can only give you my layman's view. The news reports are grim, with more shops going into administration every month.  
Throughout my city and probably most others throughout the country empty shops appear, high rents and rates, lack of financial support, lack of community spirit and creative thinking within city councils and shop owners. 
The list is no doubt endless. 

The shops below are just a few of the empty shops in Carlisle city centre.
Past Times went into administration closing 46 stores, Carlisle being one of them.Closed 2012.
This was a Goldsmiths jewellers, closed 2012.
Hawkins Bazaar went into administration closing 65 stores, including Carlisle. Closed Boxing Day 2012.
This was a nibbly fish, foot place which after scare stories in the press went from being very busy to customer less in a week. This is in the main shopping centre The Lanes, they use special advertising boards to distract from the view of empty shop.
Was a milkshake bar, closed 2011, also in The Lanes.
Ex Faith shoe shop, also in The Lanes but being hired out this week as a pop up charity shop.
Was a Benetton shop, but closed 2012 when they didn't renew their lease.
Think these 2 were bith stationary type shops at one point, not had anything in them for a few years.
Another shop in The Lanes, this was a Quiz shop.
In The Lanes again this was a Laura Ashley shop.
Peacocks went into administration 2011, 344 shops were saved in a buy out but 224 were still closed including ours.
This was a tanning shop, closed 2011.
This has been many things but last was a cafe sandwich bar.
An ex hair salon, closed 2011.
This is a space I find really interesting, as far as I know it has never been occupied since The Lanes was done up several years ago, it's a coener that doesn't get a huge amount of footfall past it, but looks very cool.
A fashion boutique which closed 2012.
A bistro restaurant which didn't close but moved into much bigger premises around the corner, it always seems busy and is doing well at it's new premises, yeah. 
Freckles bridle shop had another shop in Dumfries and choose to close Carlisle one.

Chapmans is currently having a closing down sale, the business as been there for 165 years and in the current climate has choose not to renew it's lease. It took up all 3 floors of this amazing building, and leaves 49 people unemployed.
Another long running jewellers which closed in 2011.
A pair of newly renovated but empty shops.
Nice to see this one has an under offer sign on it, and that the charity shop that was in it has moved to bigger premises.
These shops are in Botchergate which as thankfully seen some regeneration last year, I hope that soon these will get a helping hand too.
And below is Hoopers, it takes up a huge building in the heart of the historic quarter of Carlisle. It has just announced it's closure in June, with the loss of 83 jobs. Hoopers is in talks with other companies about taking over the space and hopefully keeping on some staff but at this time we have heard nothing else.
As someone who works in retail to walk through Carlisle's streets and see all these empty building saddens me deeply.  I would love to set up my own art/craft studio with Carlisle but the rents are high and businesses don't get much support. 
More so I want to understand, what make your business survive? Large shops and small in Carlisle are expanding and having refits, even in our climate of doom and gloom.
There's an empty shop somewhere in Carlisle with my name on it, but when I make it mine I want it to stay that way,so do you have the answers? What are you thoughts on what makes a business work? 
How do you survive on the highstreet?
Waiting with baited breath,


  1. Anonymous13/5/12 21:29

    Fascinating observations.

    Sadly we are all in part to blame for this. The rise of online shopping means we simply can't be bothered to go out shopping like we use to. The thrill of going to a shop has been replaced with the postman delivering our goods straight to our door.

    The highstreet shop can't compete with the prices of the online retailers. As you note, shops need footfall to survive.

    Personally I don't mind seeing the demise of the high street.

  2. Anonymous13/5/12 21:39

    We had a very successful family business for 80 years. Business rates were the killer. We gave now rented the shop we actually built! To one of the "big boys". Only they can afford it. A fairer system based on sales, number of employees, VAT paid needs to be considered. Good luck. Hope you have as much success as we did.

  3. I hate the recession, but also shopping habits are changing. The internet is both good and bad for shoppers and sellers, it means independent makers can sell without the rates that a shop would make. We all know how many ace things there are in the internet because its just a market, more should be made of these empty outlets like the pop up store, I think.

    Surely its better for the centre to get nothing over something, letting the shops out to independent sellers for 1 week - 3 months at a time would give everyone a good reason to go into town. Things would be changing and people could get excited about putting money back into the area through spending.

    I think it would be great if they contacted local makers/business people to sell for trial periods. I think overall the Lanes is ran by an enthusiastic team, I know they have fashion shows and stuff but they could also open up the empty units to other talent such as musicians/ actors / workshops

    I'm also gutted about Hoopers.

    Long live shopping, good customer service and vibrant town centres xxx

  4. I mean something over nothing...oops

  5. I too see my name on one of those shops one day.
    Currently, I am an on line retailer but I still see my store as a local business and support other local businesses by visiting their bricks and mortar shops or their on line store. Local government needs to support local businesses through lower rents, easier applications for pop up shops, local markets, free advertising, easier/cheaper parking and encouraging diversity. Locals need to support local businesses - on line or other wise.
    I would love to take my business to the high street and occupy one of those shops, but getting any help in doing so is a far off reality.

  6. So sad to see all those empty shops in your town. It's happening everywhere though and it feels like the heart is being taken out of towns. I think there are so many factors involved, economic climate, change in shopping habits, change in society as a whole. Perhaps high streets need to be about more than just shopping/retail, although this still needs to be part of it and I would love to see more independent shops. Personally I'd rather go to a high street than a shopping centre/mall any day.
    Hope you do get a shop, and it thrives.

  7. Anonymous14/5/12 12:10

    I think firstly we need a cut in VAT to either 17.5 or 15% for 24-36 Months.
    Business Rates need cut - they are massive for some shops.
    Also the market is saturated with lots of the same shops, so this then reduces the price of items, this making the turnover lower.
    Also banks need to cut their rates and fees.

  8. It's a vicious circle in a way... shops close, there's less reason for people to spend time in town, so more shops close because there is less passing trade. It's sad, but understandable when you can have far more choice for a better price online. There needs to be more of a pull - something to make people want to go, whether that is different choice, better value or something different. I think shops should offer lower rates - if it's occupied at least the landlords are getting *something*, which you'd think would be better than nothing. Or maybe short-term leases?
    I don't know the solution either, but you'd think there would be something they could do to avoid this downward spiral...

  9. Anonymous14/5/12 14:14

    I know Carlisle well although I havent been there for a while and I found this post pretty scary. I owned 2 shops until recently - I sold one and closed the other - because I knew I would have to eventually close them and concentrate solely on online sales which I didnt want to do.
    It makes me so sad to read some of these comments from people who dont seem to care that the high st is dying. I HATE shopping online, I like customer service and to see what I am buying.
    Hold off on your shop. Wait 5 years when there are no shops left and then the idea of shopping in actual shops will make a comeback I promise.

  10. This was really sad to read - I haven't spent that much time in the centre of Carlisle when I've visited recently, so didn't realise there are so many empty places. I'm really surprised that Hoopers is closing down - there's been a department store there for a while (was it Bullough's before?).

    I agree with Claire's comments about how shops closing down reduces passing trade. I also think the recession and everything has had an effect - I shop less, because I have less money! Which makes me more likely to shop online, because it's usually cheaper.

    In some ways I think part of the problem is that there are too many shop premises where new retail developments went ahead in the past ten years, but there was never the market to sustain them in the long term.

  11. This post is really sad but also really true and for me, really close to my heart, a) because i feel like i know you rather well and know how much you would love a chance to have your own place, and own business, and secondly because i work with you, in retail, and it is really scary out there.

    I get why this is happening, well to an extent, and i don't know if im a minority, but i really cant get into shopping online at all. Unless its beauty products that i am repeat buying, or something that i have seen or tried and i am buying online because i couldn't get the size. Its not that i need advice, or help. But i need to be inspired to shop. I don't have money to spend and spend and so what i do spend i need to really think about, and love and treasure and know i will wear/use it. And its shop windows,staff, merchandising and seeing the products 'in real life' that inspires me to buy.

    Sad times, but we will make it through, the only way is up…...


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