Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Blackburn’s bite the bookseller.

Coincidence is a strange thing, first this morning I received the picture above with the following email

Dear Michael, saw this on the net and wondered if this bookshop used to be your's or has the photo been wrongly labelled as Ramsgate. If it was your shop, where was it as I can't remember seeing it, the nearest building that I remember looking like this is along from your present bookshop opposite The Hamilton pub. kind regards Ron”

It is of course a picture of Blackburn’s furniture shop and undertakers in Ramsgate taken in about 1910 which has had the signage modified.

Then later this morning I had a historical enquiry about Blackburn’s furniture shop in Broadstairs which is due to cease trading at the end of the month. I should stress here that this isn’t related to Blackburn’s the undertaker in Broadstairs which is continuing to trade.

My guess – an informed guess because I am a shop assistant – is that the story will go something like this, sometime in around 1960 the landlord bought the freehold of the shop for around £10,000 or in around 1970 for around £20,000 – pick your year and amount, it doesn’t really matter. And since then the value of the site has appreciated to around £300,000. well for most of that time the landlord will have received a rent of around 10% of the site value, this is a bit like Monopoly you understand, and worked fine while the goods the shop was selling and the value of the shop all appreciated at about the rate of inflation.  

Westwood Cross property inflation rates related to property values and the internet mean however that the light at the end of the tunnel is a train coming the other way.   
Of course this is beginning to bite the property landlords too, the picture above is of Blackburn’s Shop in Ramsgate now, its been empty for about seven years when the freehold for the whole lot sold for around £90,000 it went in the auction about three years ago with a reserve of £170,000 failed to sell and sold after the auction for £106,000 it comprises three shops larger than mine and market forces suggest that each of these shops has a real value of £20,000. this would suggest a rent of £2,000pa or £40 per week with rates of around £20 per week, dream on though.   


  1. Great theory, Michael, but Blackburns furniture shop in Broadstairs has been trading for over a century and a half. Even in modern times it has offered a great selection, competitive prices and a personal service you will not find at Westwood X so why, oh why, did the owners of the business not buy the freehold sometime over those many years and thus, liberate themselves from a rental that escalates with the value of the property. Is it that the old fashioned tenant shop keeper has had his day and new forces have come to the market place or is it all the fault of Ikea who, as with Amazon in your business, now dominate the furniture world. Whatever, I will miss Blackburns.

    1. William as a family we once had a chain of bookshops in Hertfordshire, my brother having the main bookshop in St Albans, he rented the site and was squeezed out by the ever increasing rent and rates. Many of the shopkeepers in the same road had bought their freeholds but for the most part the rates finished them off.

      The key being that once that shops around you have stopped being proper shops and become estate agents, solicitors, hairdressers et al the footfall drops.

      With Broadstairs I would say that it is fast becoming a town centre where it is difficult to complete a normal shopping mission, my guess being the future would be a sort of housing estate with plenty of pubs and the associated problems

    2. Hardly, Michael, for Broadstairs has three butchers, two greengrocers, one fresh fishmonger, two grocers, two bakers,Iceland, four mixed convenience/newsagent shops, four antique dealers, one bookshop plus a selection of varied retail outlets on top of the abundance of estate agents, solicitors and hairdressers. It remains a High Street offering most of one's daily needs and only needing a trip elsewhere for clothing and shoes as in my childhood. Just the names change. The real difference is that when I was a kid one went to Margate or Ramsgate for clothing and footwear, but now that trip is to Westwood.

    3. I largely agree with William here, Broadstairs High Street remains very much a traditional high street. Same applies to Birchington, but not to Margate... having said that, I still by most of my clothes in Primark in Margate rather than in Westwood Cross).

    4. I agree with William. I like Broadstairs town centre. It cheers me up. Whereas Ramsgate and especially Margate do the opposite.


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