Monday, 27 September 2021

It’s not all gloom on high street

THE high street in Henley is buoyant despite a raft of shop closures.

THE high street in Henley is buoyant despite a raft of shop closures.

Twelve retail units are currently empty and another is to close in the summer.

The town will then have a shop vacancy rate of 4.5 per cent, compared with 4.8 per cent in April and the national average of 13.2 per cent.

The figures also compare favourably with February 2009 when the number of empty shops was a record 34, prompting the Henley Standard to launch its Think Local campaign.

The most recent shop to close was florist Stemtation in Market Place Mews.

Skate shop Yeuk in Friday Street shut in December but the premises have already been taken over by the Ferret Antiques Shop, which used to be part of Henley Antiques in Friday Street until that closed in July 2014.

Gift shop St Audrey’s in Duke Street will close in the summer when the lease runs out. Retailers have blamed the growth of online sales, poor footfall and the cost of business rates as the reasons for leaving.

Reading Road has four empty units, including the former Casa Nostra restaurant, Henley Kitchen Studio, Daltons estate agents and Nepalese restaurant Mountain View Kitchen.

In Market Place the former Hearn’s of Henley shoe shop and former Spirited Wines are both empty. Picture framing shop Memories 4 U in Market Place Mews closed in August and is still empty.

Hart Street has four vacant units including the former Sotheby’s estate agents, clothing shop Foam Fashion and the Rules of Beauty day spa.

The fourth is former fashion boutique Rive Gauche but that is being refurbished by Jonkers bookshop so it can move across the street.

Rachel Rae, interim town centre manager, said: “It’s a shame to lose some shops, which have been affected for a lot of different reasons.

“We are trying to work with retailers to encourage more footfall but it will increase in the summer.”

Henley Mayor Lorraine Hillier, who runs the Hot Gossip coffee shop in Friday Street and Upstairs and Downstairs tea rooms in Duke Street, said she felt footfall in the town was down.

She said: “A lot of it is parking issues. People are put off because they can’t park. It’s a shame to see some shops closing but some are coming back like the Ferret.”

Gillian Nahum, a director of the Henley Business Partnership who runs nautical gift shop Boatique in Friday Street, said she knew of several businesses wanting to take on the unit currently used by St Audrey’s.

“I do not think it will be empty for very long,” she said. “The Ferret has gone back in as well so it’s not all doom and gloom and other shops are looking at coming to Henley but the rent has to be at the right level.” Henley MP John Howell said: “There will be some pluses and minuses through the year and while we need to keep an eye on them we do not need to be worried by them unless it becomes a trend.

“Power is being given to local councils to decide whether shops can open on Sundays and there are changes to business rates, which is what businesses wanted by making it a much more local tax.”

Since April a number of empty units have been filled or changed hands.

In Market Place, the former Blockbuster video store has become shoe shop Moda in Pelle, while Louise Claire Millinery moved into the former Revolution store in May.

The Simon Drew Art Shop in New Street is now Lilly Dry Clean, which opened in July, while Johnson’s the Dry Cleaners in Bell Street has become an Arkhive identity shop run by Timpsons.

Cargo in Market Place closed but will re-open as a Bensons for Beds outlet.

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