FTFL HOLLY WILSON USE .qxp_Layout 1 29/03/2019 18:25 Page 1
From The Frontline
I have spent the morning furiously WhatsApping backwards and forwards with my fellow retailers of Primrose Hill. We have a group chat where we share advice, local thefts (which have been huge this month) and social events. However the current hot topic is the dreaded Business Rates. Everyone has received their revised bills this week and there is a mixture of relief and desperate tears but certainly everyone is angry at a flawed system.
Dire rates W
e are in the Borough of Camden and we get a pretty poor service, and that’s being generous! We have a high crime rate with scooter thefts, violent muggings and shop theft but in the two years I’ve been there I’ve never seen a police officer or community support officer on the beat. In Stokey I see them almost daily. Rateable values soared in Primrose Hill last year. Mine went from £18,500 to £45,750! I’m very lucky that I still fall under the threshold for relief so my bill has actually been marginally reduced but most of my fellow traders were not so lucky. A cafe two doors down from me that trades from a 83sqm floor had her RV increase to £101k and is now paying £43k in business rates but she doesn’t even get her waste collected for this (as Camden won’t let us put it out on the street until after 6pm). Such madness! We have had four units (cafes and shops) close on the street so far this year and it is going to be nigh on impossible to get an independent business to take the units as the rents are extortionate as well as the increased business rates. Greedy landlords and councils will kill the street and then what will happen? It will be full of charity shops or empty units and then people will stop coming to the area to shop and everyone else goes out of business. It really is desperate times but the general public is still pretty oblivious to it and either ask for a discount while shopping or say they can buy it cheaper online as they cannot see the hidden costs. This - mixed with the pressures of, dare I say it, Brexit - are really pushing my fellow retailers to wonder why they are doing it. I fluctuate between wild panic and being totally calm when it comes to Brexit. I’ve registered for my EORI number so I can
Above & left: Richard Dare in Primrose Hill.
import from Europe but that is about all I’ve done. Suppliers are asking for pre orders, suggesting longer lead times, increases in costs of over 20% - but no one knows! So I’m trying to ignore the scaremongering and just hold my nerve until we actually see what we are faced with. My buying is unpredictable at the best of times and March is not the best month to be stockpiling stock, even if I had the space to store it! That’s not to say that I’m not looking at my supply base, and where my product is made, and trying to make sensible tweaks and forecasting where possible. So, on a more positive note, it’s all about increasing sales to fight the increased costs. I am trying to add more stock to my Trouva sites and grow that side of the business. I
have also fallen out of love with Instagram as a promotional tool but I probably need to up my game again as it is certainly an influential platform. I then need to put more time into promotion and enticing people into store. Easter should be the perfect time to kickstart this. We have an annual contest every Easter normally a classic ‘decorate an egg’ contest. This becomes quite a nice community event and the kids love to see their creations in the window. It does leave the shop smelling slightly less fresh than normal though! Also on the ‘to-do’ list is implementing a store discount card to reward my loyal customers for shopping with me. It’s an easy thing to implement with my POS system, Vend. I just need to get on and do it. Story of my life! Too much talking, not enough getting on with things, so on that note I’ll leave you. Good luck out there everyone! Holly Wilson is the owner of two cookshops in North London: Prep Cookshop in Stoke Newington, and Richard Dare in Primrose Hill.