Killing the Goose that lays the Golden Eggs

Business rates on the High Rd are about to go up drastically and we will lose some much loved independent shops as a result. One of the main things we all love about this area, the fact that it is not the same as every other High street but has character because of the individuality of its shops, is very much under threat. Sara Stationers, who have been on the High Rd since 1993 will close when its lease runs out in September next year.

Owner Krina Khatri told me “Double high rent and rates is too much, it’s not worth it any more”. Oddbins, on the corner of the High Rd and Turnham Green Terrace, closed its doors on New Year’s Eve after 30 years in Chiswick and there are a stack of other businesses up for sale: 392a Chiswick High Road (currently Herbal Inn), 51 Turnham Green Terrace (which was the Frozen Yoghurt shop), 14a Sutton Court Road (used to be Badger & Earl and has been empty for a year), 24 Devonshire Road (Bagista), 42 Devonshire Road (Cardemon Indian restaurant, currently under offer), 206 Chiswick High Road (used to be Benetton)… I could go on. They may not all be selling up because of high rent and rates but that’s usually the reason businesses give when they shut up shop.

The business rate is pegged to the retail value of a property and this year it’s being re-evaluated after a gap of seven years. High Rd businesses are bracing themselves for increases of up to 50%. Mike Moran, owner of Top Hat in Devonshire Rd pays £21,500 in rent. He’s expecting a rate increase of around 47% based on a valuation in March 2015. “It’s ridiculous” he says. “I don’t have a property department to fight it for me. I have to waste time fighting it myself”. “It’s all the little things as well” says Krina Khatri, “having to pay for rubbish collection” (at 80p a bag), “having to pay for parking, the costs all mount up”.

Businesses won’t know for sure what their new rate will be until April but you can go on to the Valuation Office website and do a calculation which will give you a pretty good idea. Mike is celebrating 50 years of his family business this year and has a pretty shrewd understanding of the business landscape in West London. He says new businesses are partly to blame for the increases, as they “come in to the area without not doing their homework properly, accepting ludicrously high rent agreements and then going bust”, leaving a legacy of higher rents. It is also a fact that national and international companies can and will pay more. When the lease for hairdresser Armstrong & Cuthbert came up a few years ago, salon owner Wendy Nixon fought her corner with lawyers and won her case to keep her rent within a reasonable amount but a neighbouring chain just paid up without batting an eyelid. That is presumably why they’re asking £75,000 for the rent on the Benetton shop.

It’s not all bad news though. If you’re off the High Rd you’re not likely to face such a huge increase. In fact Andy Sands at Chiswick Cameras will see the amount he pays in rates go down from April. His rates are £12.500, which is currently £500 above the qualifying amount for rate relief, but from April the qualifying amount is going up to £15,000 so his rates will actually be cheaper.