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Charlie and N8 Princess are both right.
The rents that Adrian cites earlier in this string average out at about £500 per week. That has to be found out of takings every week, along with other overheads (insurance, rates, power, wages, interest charges etc) before the shopkeeper puts her key in the door. Only when those overheads have been covered and the bank manger been paid can she start to make any money.
It is interesting to look at the distinction between shops that sell stuff and shops that serve up coffee and those that seat young men in sharp suits selling houses.
Take the new shop by the Clock Tower. Previously it was a shoe shop and, to be successful, it had to carry stock attractive to the punter. That involves capital costs - money tied up on shelves for perhaps weeks and months.
I have no idea how many pairs of shoes the old business had to sell before break-even, but the new coffee shop about to open has a rather different model. The kitting out cost of retail and coffee shops are similar: instead of counters and shelves you have a small kitchen and tables and chairs. On the revenue side there will be extra staff costs (longer hours?) but the stock costs will be virtually zero. Stock will move on an almost daily basis and the mark up on a sack of coffee beans + hot water+ milk is immense.
Landlords know about these operating costs and that cafes and restaurants can pay higher rents. But here's the rub: landlords don't care what sort of business operates out of their unit they are only interested in maximising rents. Hence the drift in Crouch End away from stuff to lattes.
What Charlie suggests is challenging the hidden hand of the market to regulate who should occupy our high street. If it makes someone a profit, surely it must be right? But, in some states in the Land of the Free they have zoning. The local council will determine the maximum number of (say) burger bars in a high street and if a new one wants in they have to buy out the permit from an existing one. This helps to keep rents down and protect traditional retail. Simples.
And yes, N8 Princess - today about £90 out of every £100 spent by Crouch Enders was spent outside Crouch End (can you hear the Ocado and Sainsbury's delivey vans trundling down Muswell Hill?). If we changed that ratio to 88/12 we would have increased the spend in the town centre by 20% and made the future for a lot of our shopkeepers more secure.
Use 'em or lose 'em.
Thanks David, completely agree with all you say. Just to clarify, this would not involve some marxist plot to interfere with the free market. Free markets work when they are free of inelasticities: constraints on the workings of the market. Manipulating supply by withholding availability of product (or pricing it in line with market competitors irrespective of demand) breaks a free market. In the USofA they have laws against this sort of thing. We don't.
And yup, shop local!
I agree with Charlie that rents and the leasheold model are crucial, and that we badly need reform of these. It is a political question, and we ought to be putting forward some proposals. What david says about the lower overheads of cafes and restaurants as against shops actually selling things is vey interesting. Zoning is an interesting idea - actually having an upper limit on the number of cafes in Crouch End is arther appealing. Getting local people to spend more money in Crouch End does seem crucial,as N8 Princess is suggesting
Something we can all do is actually use the wonderful shops and services on our doorstep rather than giving our custom to chains or online businesses. Without our support local tradesmen will struggle even if rents and premiums are reasonable. How about a campaign to Shop Local for Christmas?
good idea I propose starting with the beautiful unique gifts in Pearl and Turquoise in Crouch Hill
now that's also a good idea you used to hear a lot about the CE card but I didn't apply and am still unsure of it's value