Welcome to The Leek Log, an opportunity to share news and views on business, leisure and community activities in Leek and the Staffordshire Moorlands.
If you have something to tell others about, let me know either by commenting on the blog or emailing me at david@davidcliffe.com

Friday, 6 November 2009

Charity shops in Leek

Charity shops are now a fixed part of our High Streets and no doubt perform a valuable role in raising funds for some worthy causes. But are we reaching a tipping point where the charities outnumber the real traders? That's the worry in Leek, where there's news of yet another charity shop opening - this time in the former Goldstraw's jewellers premises in the heart of Derby Street. This makes around a dozen in the middle of town.

There had been hopes of a quality retailer taking on this prime position, but it turns out it's not to be - at least not in the short term. Any views on this thorny issue? My good friends in Leek Chamber of Trade are concerned about it and have issued the following comment on behalf of their members:

“As retailers, we always welcome a new store opening, particularly when they take possession of vacant premises. At the end of the day, new shops enhance the overall shopping experience, providing more choice for local people and being a more attractive prospect for visitors to the town. What is particularly disappointing on this occasion is that yet another charity shop is opening. In our opinion, this is not particularly good news; neither for local people or for us as retailers. It’s not that we are being uncharitable; we recognise that such shops have their place within any town and do good work for their individual cause. In the case of Leek, however, it seems that prime locations are being taken and a concentration of similar shops is starting to form.

Unfortunately as an organisation, the Chamber of Trade has no influence over the type of store that opens. We are solely reliant upon the landlord to negotiate and agree the terms. Once again, a landlord, who does not reside in the town, has chosen to lease their premises to a charity shop. What heightens our disappointment is that we are aware of three alternative legitimate business offers for the former Goldstraws shop. In our opinion it was not necessary to lease the building to another charity shop and it is regrettable that the landlord would not even enter conversations with these three alternative businesses. We assume that the landlord was attracted by the prospect of a long term lease that a charity shop typically undertakes.

As independent retailers we have to pay business rates. Charity shops however receive 80% relief irrespective of the fact that more and more now sell new goods. We appreciate that this is a government policy and that is why Anne Morris, Chairman of the Chamber is taking this issue to Charlotte Atkins MP. It is not a case of sour grapes on our part, we simply feel that it is unfair trading.

We wholeheartedly welcome more new businesses to open in the town and appreciate that the local council and town centre co-ordinator work hard behind the scenes promoting Leek to suitable companies looking to relocate. We sincerely hope that in the future landlords do not follow a similar path to the one that we have recently experienced.”

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