Landlords key to High Street’s future

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Two high street stores have closed in Market Rasen in as many weeks, prompting a call from MR BIG for landlords to be more flexible.

The shops that called it a day just as we approach Christmas were clothing store Isn’t She Lovely and antiques shop Fagin’s Collectibles.

Their departure comes after what had been a good 2014 for our Portas Pilot town, which has enjoyed major openings with furniture store Grandad’s Shed and more recently, the March Hare cafe/winebar, both of which took over prominent sites.

Marie Spence opened Isn’t She Lovely in Summer 2013, originally in Union Street, before moving to Queen Street. The store was a sister to her shop of the same name in Brigg.

Marie was not available for comment this week, but a member of staff at the Brigg store confirmed the closure, blaming “lack of footfall.”

Amanda Johnson and Richard Abott from North Owersby opened Fagin’s Collectibles six months ago, after trading several months at Hemswell Market. They could not comment but are understood to have gone back to trading from Hemswell Cliff.

Sara Scott, chair of MR BIG, was disappointed at the closures but said other people are interested in setting up new businesses in Market Rasen.

“It’s about having the right space for the businesses that want to come,” she said.

“There should really be an onus on the landlords to ensure that the premises are in great condition- are dry and well fitted out.”

Some premises are in a poor state and are thus hard to let. In recent weeks, two empty premises in Queen Street have been renovated and its landlord told the Rasen Mail the sites are already attracting interest.

Ms Scott said this confirms premises need to be improved.

She added landlords should also try and be flexible with lease times, letting people try a lease for 3-6 months before signing up for longer.

“We have tried to get short leases in the past. It’s always been quite difficult when it would be better to have someone in for a short time,” she said.

The Market Square premises for the new March Hare cafe/wine bar had stood empty for years until it re-opened several weeks ago.

The Chase pub has also been empty for nine months, with some businesspeople telling the Rasen Mail its lease terms present a deterrent.

“If landlords took a softer view these properties would be taken so much more quickly,” Ms Scott commented.

MR BIG can provide guidance and support to help people set up businesses and it can point people in the right direction for government funding,

“A lot of government help is out there. It’s a really good time (to open a shop). The economy is picking up and as we go into spring, it should be a good opportunity for the high street,” she said.

But businesses also need to take a broader view, such as also selling online.

“People in rural areas do not always want to travel. They want to shop online. Businesses need to be thinking about this service,” Ms Scott added.