Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Shops close under pressure from online sales

A GIFT and art shop in Henley is to close with the owners blaming the growth of online sales

A GIFT and art shop in Henley is to close with the owners blaming the growth of online sales.

St Audrey’s in Duke Street, which opened more than five years ago, is likely to shut after the lease expires in June.

The news follows the closure of skate shop Yeuk in Friday Street last month.

St Audrey’s, which is named after the patron saint of markets, was opened in September 2010 by Alison Burch, from Twyford, and Jackie Redrup, from Charvil.

Mrs Burch said they had not yet set a closing date.

She said: “Our lease is coming to an end and we have decided not renew it. The face of the high street in general has changed so much it’s no longer viable for us to keep going so, unfortunately, in the face of signing up for another few years or deciding to go, we have decided to go.

“We don’t know what will happen in the meantime — there are some interested parties.

“The British Retail Consortium has said there’s no growth and that’s definitely the case in Henley. Online sales is where it’s at.

“We have some really good, loyal customers but there’s no growth and no potential for growth.

“Personally it’s sad for us as we have had a brilliant time.Henley has been good to us and it has been a great experience.

“We have met lots of lovely people and I think we’ll be missed and we’ll certainly miss everyone who visits us regularly. I think we have brought a bit of humour to the high street.”

The women hope to continue the business online.

Yeuk was opened in December 2012 by Steve Terry, who was part of a group that campaigned for a skate park in Mill Meadows before one was built at Makins recreation ground.

He also supported the Henley Skate Park Initiative’s successful campaign to replace the facility.

Mr Terry, 37, called the shop Yeuk, which means “itch”, to poke fun at the negative perception of skateboarding and skaters.

Gillian Nahum, a director of the Henley Business Partnership, who runs Boatique, a nautical clothing and gift shop in Friday Street, said: “I’m concerned by the lack of opportunities for independents to come in and have a go.”

Rents were high and businesses had to sign up for five years, which was a huge risk, she said.

Meanwhile, the Cargo store in Market Place will close on February 6 before re-opening as a Bensons for Beds outlet.

The two brands are owned by Steinhoff UK.

Store manager Thomas Butterfield, 23, said: “We’ll be in the store for another week after our last day of trading, getting all the stock cleared out.

“I think in the long run it will be quite a good move for the company and the town.”

Mr Butterfield and the other five employees have been told they can work at the new shop, be redeployed to other Cargo branches or leave the company with a payment.

“Everyone’s kind of up in the air about what they want to do,” he said.

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