Saturday, 14 January 2012

A Shop in Margate High Street

 A businessman friend of mine called in to see me today, he is in the fine arts business and like so many people his business has moved onto the internet, obviously talk turned to the Turner Contemporary and the potential commercial spin-offs.

Would he consider trading in Margate? The main thing that seemed to put him off was the level of business rates, this surprised me as the business rates on my shop in King Street Ramsgate are fairly low and as I qualify for small business rates relief, rates are not a major consideration.

It seems that he looked at a few shops in Margate High Street that could be bought or rented reasonably cheaply, but the rateable values were consistent with a thriving shopping centre, roughly similar to those in the middle of Canterbury.
I just had a look at this and frankly the rateable values seem to be all over place, see http://www.2010.voa.gov.uk/rli/en/basic/find/select/_params/page/4 I hope the link works.

There is also a sort of cut off point with small business rates relief and not knowing if the relief will last for a few years, which complicates the problem.

I haven’t gone into this one in great detail as I ran out of time and though that posting the general idea on the blog could attract some informative comment.

The next bit is really wild guesswork, but may help some people who have no notion of any of all of this form some sort of mental framework to make judgments with.

I am also thinking of the larger of the small shops here, big enough for some stock and working very roughly I will use 10 square feet to equal one square metre to explain where I am coming from here.

I would guess a medium sized small shop would be about 1,000 square feet or 100 square meters and I would guess that in a bad site like Margate High Street the rent should be about £100 per week, giving a rateable value of £5,000 per year, with the precept and no rates relief this would mean rates of about £50 per week.

In the middle of Canterbury I would expect the same shop to have a rent of about £1,000 per week and rates of about £500.

 The pictures in this post are all from the book I publish, Margate and Westgate With Birchington 1903-04, see http://www.michaelsbookshop.com/catalogue/margate_and_westgate_with_birchington_1903_04.htm interesting as I believe this is the first one to have photographic advertisements and therefore photos of many of the Margate shops that you date accurately.

The pictures would have been taken in 1902 or early 1903, I guess opening a shop in the High Street then would have been easier.

I will ramble on here as I work out what is reality and what is supposition. 

I suppose this book and how it came to be published may help with understanding the type of problem that exists in retail today. Margate Museum had a copy of it and about three years ago the then sectary of the Ramsgate Society tried to borrow it from them so I could copy it and do a reprint of it, so that it would be accessible to local people.

They wouldn’t play ball, so I bought a copy of the original, probably best not think about the price here. Anyway I have done a reprint of it and I suppose of all the books about Margate from this period it really is the most desirable item. I would say that most people in Margate would like to own a copy frankly at a tenner the reprint is pretty good value, about the cost of an average lunch out.

Then there is the problem of selling it in Margate, where there isn’t a bookshop, WH Smith is part of a big chain and don’t want to play ball, the tourist information office did stock our books for a while, but I think their bureaucracy beat them in the end. So at the moment most people come over from Margate to my bookshop in Ramsgate to buy it and a few order it online.  

What I am getting at here is that it is a reasonable and saleable product, with a reasonable demand in Margate wanting a shop to sell it.

Coming back the High Street problem, in the first instance my guess is that towns need a shopping centre to be towns, I would say that without this they become little more than housing estates. I also think that once the town centre has been fragmented by putting residential on the ground floor where the shops were there is really no way back. This situation is made much more difficult because most people wouldn’t want to live on the ground floor in the town centre. There is a strange way that because of housing benefit and a general housing shortage that people are made to live where they wouldn’t normally want to and a sort of minimum rent develops that doesn’t entirely reflect what would happen in a truly open market.  

There is also a situation where it is much more difficult for rents and rates to fluctuate in a way that represents supply and demand. Also there is the charity shop, in many cases I find it both hard to understand how the economics of some charity shops actually works, or if the charity involved derives anything much from them.

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