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Winchester trader blames business rates for shop closure
9:35am Wednesday 13th March 2013 in News
THE owner of one of Winchester’s best-known independent shops has blamed high business rates for forcing its closure.
Paul Lewis, of Your Life Your Style, in the Brooks Centre, also said the city council could do more to help business.
“I think there are lots of councillors and officers who are very supportive of business, but the city could help more by making the Brooks Centre and other places easier to find,” Mr Lewis said.
“In my view they will have exactly the same problem with Silver Hill. People just won’t realise it’s there. So I think the council could help more with signage and outdoor advertising.
“The problem is that because Winchester is a heritage district, they’re very restrictive of signage and outdoor advertising.
“I realise it’s a difficult balancing act, but they have to look forward and not just back — I do not think the balance is right at the moment.”
A spokesman for the city council said: “We are sorry to hear when any Winchester business closes. The city council works hard to support business on many issues including signage. Winchester has fewer vacant shops than most other town centres.
“Enterprises such as the Brooks do an excellent job of promoting themselves, and our officers have discussed with them ways in which they could increase footfall.
“We also work closely with the Winchester Business Improvement District (BID).
“New pedestrian fingerpost signs were installed a couple of years ago as part of the High Street refurbishment. We review the signage provided by the city council regularly, and we are always open to suggestions from businesses for ways in which it can be improved.”
Mr Lewis said that business rates on the unit cost £12,000 a year, which combined with the economic downturn, meant that his shop was requiring huge effort for little return.
Mr Lewis said: “If we were selling cheap clothes or lending money, it would be fine, but the kind of thing we’re selling, people have been more reluctant to spend on.
“Certain business models have worked very well in these times, I must admit, but the economic situation has been unkind to our shop.”
The gift and accessories shop opened in 2008 but will continue to trade online, operating out of an office on Southgate Street.
Mr Lewis and his wife, Julia, the former managers of Southampton’s Mayflower Theatre, said when it opened that they wanted the shop to “be a kind of theatre to show off original, often unique, well-made, beautifully-designed ideas for people and their homes”.
Mr Lewis said that Your Life Your Style will return to the city as a ‘pop-up’ shop, possibly in the Brooks, for the Christmas period.