Monday, 21 October 2019

Town hit for six by new closures

Henley on Thames

HENLEY’S economy has been dealt a blow with the closure of six town centre businesses.

Five shops and a restaurant have already shut or will do so shortly.

However, a number of new businesses, including a Harrods café, are opening and the town centre manager says we are doing well compared with many other places.

The number of empty shops is currently 15 out of a total of 160, giving a vacancy rate of above nine per cent, with another nine under offer or being fitted. The national vacancy rate hit a four-year high of 10.3 per cent in July.

The most recent businesses to close are Mediterranean restaurant Mezo in Market Place, furniture shop Sharps in Bell Street, Galaxy Nails in Duke Street and women’s fashion outlet Phase Eight in Hart Street.

They will be followed in the next few months by the record store In the Groove in Reading Road and the Daisy Boutique in Friday Street.

Andy Tucker, who owns In the Groove, said his lease was coming to an end and he had chosen to move on.

He said: “I’m going to move to Oxford and do the same thing there. It just feels like it’s time, I’ve done 12 years so that’s enough.”

Mr Tucker has spent that time across two sites in Reading Road. The shop was known as Henley Records when it was in the unit now occupied by flower shop Bluebells but then moved closer to the centre to the premises previously occupied by Rugmark of Henley. Mr Tucker said he had not yet set a date for his departure but it would be before Christmas.

Mezo was opened in August last year by Tahsin Kan, a former market trader from Winnersh, at the former Da Luca restaurant.

Phase Eight had its last day of trading yesterday (Thursday) after more than 10 years in the town.

Galaxy Nails opened in December at the former Blue Cross pet charity shop which closed in January last year after 10 years.

Sharps had been trading at the former Goldsmiths jewellers premises since 2014.

Daisy Boutique is to close after nine years but its sister shop in Marlow will remain.

The company has been in Mandy Bowden’s family for about 50 years, having been started by her mother.

She said: “I’m looking to cut down my workload. I want to spend more time with my two grandchildren and I’m also having to oversee care for my elderly mother. I’m sad to leave Henley because I have some wonderful friends and customers.”

Mrs Bowden plans to cease trading at the end of January.

Sparkes Jewellery in Station Road has closed after its lease expired after 20 years in the town but will continue to trade online. It is set to be replaced by a café.

Henley Barbers, which is next door, is set to move out of its premises in Station Road. The Carphone Warehouse store in Bell Street is to close when its lease ends on November 2.  Hot Gossip, Henley’s oldest independent coffee shop, is moving from Friday Street to the former Bohun Gallery premises in Reading Road and will re-open next month.

Harrods will open the H Café next month at the former Spirited Wines premises in Market Place, which has been empty for more than four years.

The Crockers Henley restaurant is to move into the former Loch Fyne restaurant in Market Place, which closed in May last year after almost two decades.

The Shellfish Cow restaurant is to open at the former Royal China premises in Reading Road, which closed last August.

New art gallery Informality, opened at the former Hearn of Henley shoe shop in Market Place yesterday (Thursday) after the premises underwent structural repairs and refurbishment.

Mountain Warehouse has taken over the former Paperchase card and gift store in Bell Street which ceased trading in August after almost seven years.

Town and community manager Helen Barnett said: “There’s a bit of a churn of smaller units but we have got some very exciting people coming and interest in others which are available. Compared to other places in the country we’re doing extremely well and there’s great interest in Henley.

“The reason that a number of businesses are leaving is their leases are up and the landlord has the opportunity to put the rent up so a few people decided to leave. I think some of them have taken advantage of the fact they have a break clause.”

Ms Barnett said she wanted to organise a meeting with the landlords of business units in Friday Street where she said rents had been increased.

“If we could rebrand it and give it a Carnaby Street feel that would be a very good thing,” she added.

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