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From Ben Darnton
I read the article ‘Guildford Town Centre Will Remain Healthy Predicts Report‘ with interest. Having worked in Guildford for the last 30 years I have observed a gradual change in peoples shopping habits.
Recently, my customers always seem in a mad rush due to high parking charges and are scared of the generally unfriendly traffic wardens who are quick to pounce on customers who pull up outside to unload records. There’s no encouragement or incentive to stay in town for any length of time and perhaps discover shops like mine in off the beaten track locations such as Tunsgate, Chapel street etc.
Standing outside the Guildhall, in the High Street hosting my record fair I noticed that nearly every shop in the town centre caters for women, not men, so I have witnessed a higher foot-fall of bored blokes passing the time in my shop whilst their wives hit the card hard in A + N, Debenhams, Creams 4 u etc!
In 20 years trading in Tunsgate there have never been any empty shops until the last year. Now there are four. High rent and increasing business rates are responsible for this.
Every year with my rate demand increase, there is a section which says if you are a small business you can apply for a rate reduction if your rateable value is below £18,500. Sadly there are no shops with rates so low in the town centre, so until something is done more independent shops will disappear from Guildford, as they have done in Godalming, Farnham etc.
<em>Ben Darnton is the proprietor of Bens Collectors Records, 5 Tunsgate, Guildford, Surrey.</em>
Photo from Best of Guildford’s ‘Buy Local’ campaign.