Halifax in the grip of the big closing-down sale

Three virtually in a row: to let signs and vacant shops in King Cross Street, Halifax
Three virtually in a row: to let signs and vacant shops in King Cross Street, Halifax
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Even high street sex shops are finding it tough in the present economic climate.

Halifax’s Private Shop, in Crown Street, is for sale with a guide price of £215,000. And anyone taking on the lease can expect a hefty rates bill.

Yorkshire Book Clearance in Old Market is closing and has put a sign in the window telling customers that one of the reasons is the £13,000 it has to find each year to cover the cost of business rates.

The lease to the premises has also come to an end.

Contrary to popular opinion, business rates are collected by Calderdale Council but are actually fixed by the Government and went up by 5.6 per cent this year.

A shoe shop in Market Street, which closed before Christmas, is now on the market but whoever moves in can expect to pay up to £92,000 a year in rent alone before they make a penny.

The Early Learning Centre, at Woolshops, recently moved to nearby Mothercare, Game Station closed last week and another Woolshops business, Textiles Direct, will be closing on April 18.

Among the other shops in the town centre whose premises are for sale or to let is the former Age Concern shop in King Edward Street and a bakery in Commercial Street.

Parfitt’s bakery and sandwich shop across the precinct, which is part of the Borough Market, closed at Christmas. Anyone interested in acquiring a pub could do worse than The Shakespeare in Horton Street. The freehold to The Sportsman, in Upper Crown Street, is also for sale.

The former Chinese buffet in Waterhouse Street has been empty for months.

Michay Matthews, who just over a year ago became Halifax’s marketing manager, said she did not think the town was struggling anywhere near as much as some of its neighbours.

“We have relatively low vacancy rates compared to the national figure which I believe is due in part to our Totally Locally campaign, which encourages people to shop closer to home,” she said.

Woolshops manager Jason Gregg said that in the weeks after Christmas, there was usually a spike in the number of businesses putting up the shutters.

But he added: “There is every reason to be optimistic with the imminent opening of the Broad Street Plaza.

“It will help to make visiting Halifax even more of a leisure experience, not just a shopping trip, which has to be the way forward.” He is backing council plans to create more space for major retailers at nearby Northgate, which should help to claw back some of the money being spent in bigger towns and cities.

Mr Gregg dismissed claims in Deloitte’s “Store of the Future” report, which this month warned that up to 40 per cent of high street shops could close over next five years.

It estimates four out of 10 shops will have to shut as consumers turn their backs on traditional stores in favour of online shopping.

“I don’t think it will kill traditional high streets but they will have to alter and adapt to changing demands,” he said.

According to the latest town centre report, there are 76 cafes/restaurants, 27 hot food takeaways and 39 pubs in Halifax.

Another eight and a multi-screen cinema are due to open in the Broad Street Plaza, potentially creating more than 200 new jobs.

Julian Rawson was recruited by the council 18 months ago to try to give empty shops and other commercial property throughout Calderdale a new lease of life.

But it hasn’t been easy as attempts to set up a loan scheme for property owners has been hampered by the credit crunch and the Government has put a halt to grants for “living over the shop” schemes.

“Latest data seems to show that nationally about 18 per cent of shops and commercial property is vacant and the situation in Halifax is very much in line with that figure.

“But that is probably quite good when you realise that in towns like Bradford, Oldham and Dewsbury the rate is between 26 and 30 per cent,” said Mr Rawson.

A detailed assessment in 2009 showed a huge need for additional retail space in Halifax to compete with neighbouring towns and cities.

“Since then there have been significant changes in the economic context, locally, nationally and globally,” according to the 2012 Retail Needs Assessment.

“New forecasts predict less need for supermarkets, a fall of 8.3 per cent and significantly lower need for comparison floor-space, with a fall of 43.9 per cent.”

The figures are based partly on the estimates which show that the growth in consumer spending between now and 2026 will be far less than originally anticipated.

Nationally, February saw the highest level of vacant shops on record – 14.6 per cent, said the Local Data Company.

“Every one of the 650 town centres we walk into has been impacted in some way and this is not a temporary blip - we are seeing a structural change.”

The Government has given Calderdale £100,000 to help tackle the problem of empty shops.

“We will be looking at how we can make the best use of the money to help new and existing retail businesses,” said Calderdale Council’s economy and environment director Ian Gray.