The owner of the Emma’s Apothecary and Homestore on Westgate Arcade has warned of a painful time ahead for the high street after closing her Halifax shop.
The shop is the second in the town centre to announce its closure recently after GuitarZone and CafeZone also revealed it is to shut down.
Emma Cox, 51, opened in Halifax eight years ago and has another shop in Skipton, although she says there are question marks over the future of that outlet too.
“It’s a mixture of things, I think we’re in a bit of a perfect storm at the moment,” Emma said.
“Ten years of austerity hasn’t helped. I think people have less disposable income on the whole.
“The Brexit uncertainty has really spooked people because they don’t know what’s going to happen, so they’re being very cautious with their money.
“Then on top of that I think councils and some landlords haven’t reacted quickly enough to the change in people’s shopping habits.
“There is just not the same quantity of people out in town as there used to be, and it is very noticeable.
“We’ve just watched it diminish and diminish over the last year, when it’s been particularly bad.
“It’s just got quieter and quieter.
“I think some of the big employers have changed some of their working practices too, offering more work flexibility or on performance-related pay, so people are working through their lunch breaks.
“The high street will evolve but it’s going to take time, and the interim process is going to quite painful.”
When asked what help could have made a difference in the last year, Emma said: “I think it needed to be earlier than that. The government recently did the 30 per cent off rates deal - that has helped but we needed that 24 months ago.
“That’s a government thing, not a council thing. The government haven’t recognised the effect of two years of messing about with Brexit and 10 years of austerity.
“Small businesses are the backbone of Britain. Most people are employed by small-to-medium sized businesses, and they are on the front-line, and they’re getting really squeezed, especially retailers.”
Emma admits it has been a very difficult decision to close her Halifax store.
“It’s depressing. We’re not about online, we’re about the experience, and it’s something we work hard at and people really enjoy it,” she said.
“But even that is not enough at the moment. It’s really sad.
“We have to do something to save our high streets, which may include being more aggressive with the likes of Amazon, ASOS and Boohoo who have all these big warehouses.
“There are certain things going on where the council is really trying to buoy the town up and keep the town as a thriving centre.
“But they’re fighting a lot of issues.”
Emma believes other traders and retailers in Halifax town centre are also struggling to make ends meet.
“I would imagine so, yeah,” she said. “It’s not just our shop that people aren’t walking past.
“There will be other businesses that are thinking ‘this is really tough’.
Emma says the response from her customers has been heartening since it was announced the store is to close.
She added: “People have been really disappointed. We’ve got a lot of regular customers who are really sad and shocked to see us go.
“We’ve had a lot of comments on Facebook, and there’s been a lot of people through the door to say goodbye, which is really nice.
“But it would just be a folly to try to continue.”