Long established shops in Bath are closing their doors, thanks in part to continuing high business rates.
The latest is bag shop Rickards of Bath in Northumberland Place, serving customers for over 100 years. When it first opened in 1910, it sold bags made by the family in their own factory in the city.
‘Retail has changed dramatically over the last ten years and has become much harder during the recession,’ says Rickards current owners. ‘The increase in online trading, rising overheads and high business rates have all added to our decision.’
‘Sadly our Council have already gone on record claiming there is no problem with business rates and that demand for shops was high,’ says Bath resident Julian Deverell and campaigner for independent shops in Bath. He blames Bath & North East Somerset (B&NES) council for continuing to charge sky-high rents and not providing a more business friendly environment for independent shops.
‘As far as B&NES are concerned the shop premises will simply be filled with another business,’ says Deverell, ‘be it a corporate chain or another independent who braves Bath’s astonishing costs. The high street in this country is slipping away and councils like B&NES are part of the problem.’
Extortionate business rates, high council rents and parking costs have all been cited by Bath traders in the past as a hindrance to their businesses. When long-established Bath Model Centre recently closed after 80 years of business in the city centre, Bob Graham, father of the final owner, said the high cost of trading didn’t help.
‘It is a lack of trade and steep overheads,’ said Graham. ‘The business rates are going up again in April, they are extortionate, and we have high rent. The council is to blame. In the past ten years it has done everything it can to stop people coming to Bath. The cost of parking, over zealous traffic wardens, they are booking people left, right and centre.’