Traders fear for future of Kilburn High Road
Kilburn Flowers latest business to shut down
17 December, 2018 — By Jane Clinton
Kilburn Flowers has closed
IT had stood in the same spot for a century.
So when Kilburn Flowers closed in October it felt like more than just another fatality among the so-called “bricks and mortar” retailers in the area.
The shop’s owner could not be reached but the manager of a neighbouring business said: “He was losing too much money. Let’s hope it doesn’t just turn into yet another Costa.”
That sentiment is shared by shops who say business rates are a factor in slimming their chances of survival on the Kilburn High Road.
This week the New Journal counted at least 10 shops boarded up on the stretch of units – some of which have stood empty for more than six months.
“We tried to make this business work but we are closing down after six months,” said the owner of The Factory Outlet, a carpet and rug shop, who asked not to be named. He said “exorbitant” business rates and rent, as well as the rise of online shopping and the depressed state of the High Road, meant it was just too hard to break even, let alone make a living.
“My business rates and rent are £1,500 a week – that is £1,000 on rent and £500 on rates,” he added. “Independent businesses need support, like time off from paying business rates to get back on their feet.”
He is now considering taking his business online.
Many retailers lamented the state of the Kilburn High Road – the shared responsibility of Camden and Brent councils – and how it needs a facelift.
“It is so dark and miserable,” said Rizwan Shaikh, who has the unit Between the Sheets in Kilburn Market. “It is not very festive. Business has been hard recently. I’m sure Brexit has something to do with it. “We used to have good shops like Mothercare which drew people in, but now it is full of betting shops and charity shops.”
Among the bigger brands on the road are three William Hill betting shops, two Sainsbury’s stores, a Tesco, a Starbucks and two Costas.
Empty units on the Kilburn High Road
For Mati Shirzad, 36, who along with his family owns Mobile & Computer Land, which has diversified to sell other items including brooms and stationery, the future is uncertain.
“We survive as we are a family business,” he said. “Since 2014 business has been bad. Every day it gets worse. We keep going but who knows how long for. We need help.”
Camden Council said from April next year it will be introducing the Retail Relief Scheme so that businesses with a rateable value of under £51,000 will have a third off their rates in 2019/2020 and 2020/ 2021.
It has also joined forces with Brent Council to get Transport for London (TfL) funding to improve the “public realm” of the High Road and the “public transport issues” .
Tom Ironside, director of business and regulation at the British Retail Consortium, said the business rates system “remains a hangover of previous times” and needs “fundamental reform”.