Better news for Marlborough's High Street: two empty retail shops filled
The best news for the economic life of Marlborough is that the Rick Stein restaurant will be opening in the Autumn - bringing jobs and hungry visitors to the town.
However, the question hovering over the town is how many of the empty shops will be filled by the end of the year. The High Street is looking somewhat 'gap toothed' - as are some of the town's surrounding streets - but two empty premises will soon be filled.
8-9 High Street was one of the two larger stores the town lost this year: Vyella was victim of the Austin Reed Group's collapse, which saw 90 stores close around the British Isles. Soon it will house Marlborough's branch of the Joules clothing chain - a move from the north to the south side of the High Street and into larger premises.
The move will, of course, leave another empty shop where Joules is currently.
Marlborough Town Council's planning committee (September 19) had no objections to the designs for Joules' new shop front.
They also had no objections to changes at 121-122 The High Street - formerly home to the East fashion chain.
Currently under repair, these premises have been taken over by Estee Lauder who plan to divide them into two retail outlets - for Aveda and Bobbi Brown cosmetics. This will involve change of use for the basement from offices to retail space and include two 'light box' signs in the windows - designs shown left and right.
Both these planning applications - for Joules and Estee Lauder - still have to be approved by Wiltshire Council.
The other major store to close this year was My Local - victim of the end of another ambitious chain of discount supermarkets. Marlborough.News understands that the annual rent for these premises, which includes the upper floors with storage and flats, is £180,000.
Elsewhere in the town the list of closed premises is not too healthy. The Food Gallery Express has closed and the Smith Gore estate agent premises are empty following a merger with Savills. Charlotte Quest reluctantly ceased trading - and her double fronted shop is now being advertised.
In Hilliers Yard the Cosy Bean closed - also reluctantly - and remains empty. And the Kit Stone showrooms have gone leaving a very empty looking building as it awaits demolition to make way for a development of business premises and flats.
In The Parade the antiques market in the former chapel is empty - following the decision to move the business to premises in Newbury which promised a better footfall. It is now for sale. And the Picnic sandwich and soup café at No. 8 The Parade, has closed and that shop is also for sale. And there are two empty premises on the London Road.
This situation appears to be nothing to do with Brexit-type fears for the future, but is the result of the longer term problems of the high level of rents and a reported decline in 'footfall'.
National figures just issued show that in August shop closures across the country were 1,997 higher than openings with the main difference coming from a 15 per cent drop in new openings.
And the British Retail Consortium found a rise of a tenth of one per cent in people visiting high streets in August - but put this tiny increase down to visits to restaurants and similar venues. Retail sales fell over the period.