06:00PM, Wednesday 17 July 2019
A trader has hit out at business rates and the state of the High Street as he prepares to move his shop to Reading after 25 years in the town.
Hardedge occupies 100-102 High Street but is ‘being forced to move’ due to ‘excessive rents, business rates and service charges’, according to manager Charlie Grant.
Charlie has run the mens and ladieswear shop, owned by Hanif Gaffar, for the past five years and moved to Maidenhead from Fulham two years ago.
He said customers have told him the shop is ‘the only worthwhile store coming into town for’.
Charlie said: “Because of the shopping offer in town, I understand. Why would you want to come into town and shop?”
He added: “When we started in Maidenhead all those years ago Maidenhead was a shopping destination. You could pretty much spend the whole day in town but over the years these shops have been emptied.”
He added: “You’re seeing the High Street is becoming more of a service destination than a retail destination.”
In his view there are only a handful of shops still drawing shoppers in, including Boots, Topshop and Marks & Spencer.
“If any one of these fall this High Street will be dead,” he said.
“For me, it’s all doom and gloom in the High Street at this point in time unless something improves dramatically.”
The trader welcomed the takeover of the Nicholsons Centre by Tikehau, but he is not sure how small independent shops would be able to afford business rates, which are set by central government, if they stay high.
He added he believed more people would come and spend their money in the town centre if parking was free for the first hour.
The search for a new premises in Maidenhead was prompted by the upcoming expiration of the shop’s 25-year lease.
“We’ve been looking for another unit in town for eight or nine months but couldn’t find anything due to excessive rents, business rates and service charges” he said.
“The landlords and the council, I think they think this is the West End or something. We closed the store in Reading last year, however we’ve now found it’s better for us to vacate Maidenhead and move back to Reading.”
A Hardedge pop-up shop will continue operating in Maidenhead in a unit next door but it will be about a third of the size.
“We’re still trying to offer something to Maidenhead” he said.
Hardedge will close its current premises on August 11 before the store moves next door on August 14.
A spokeswoman from the Royal Borough of Windsor & Maidenhead said: “We work hard to support local and independent businesses across this borough and we want to ensure that our towns continue to be a desirable place to do business now and in the future.
“As business rates are set centrally by government we have introduced a package of support for local businesses which includes reduced or zero business rates for those who apply for business rate relief as well as a number of other initiatives.
“In addition, we are always happy to help local businesses who may need to move due to various regeneration projects in the town, seek suitable alternative accommodation. Recently we have helped a number of businesses move to both permanent and temporary premises while Maidenhead regeneration progresses.”
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