In what seems to be an all too common occurrence in the sector, rent increases have once again forced the closure of a small business, in this instance Health Quest in Northampton which shut its doors at the beginning of October.
Last September store owner Carol Faulkner asked for a rent review from the owner of The Grosvenor Centre – the shopping centre in which the store was located – and when this wasn’t granted she started a petition instore, achieved 3,000 signatures and went to the papers, radio and TV with her plight. “After my local MP wrote a letter asking the owner to reduce the rent or take me off the lease so I could trade elsewhere, the rent was finally reduced but not enough for me to afford to stay,” explains Faulkner.
While all this was going on Faulkner claims the shopping centre has been experiencing an increase in the number of empty units, recently losing major stores including House of Fraser, Republic, the Disney Store and Miss Selfridge, and when work on the centre’s facelift led to complaints from tenants and customers alike she decided it really was the right time to move.
But the future looks bright as Faulkner is opening a new store in a new location later this month: Northampton Health Store. “My new premises are the light at the end of the tunnel,” she says. “It has got two massive windows for wonderful displays, no stairs – people used to struggle with that at Health Quest – and is a lovely squarish shape so is easy to get around.”
The location is great too, on a busy road on the bus routes, and the bus station is just across the road. “My little old ladies are happy it will be closer to them now. They can get their bits and jump straight back on the bus.”
As NP goes to press, Faulkner is still working on the layout but says she will be looking to upgrade her natural skincare offer and as the premises have lots of storage downstairs she will look into mail order and taking on more staff.
“I have had the most magnificent support from Cheryl, Steve and the team at Viridian – so huge gratitude goes their way – and to Tim from Natures Aid who spent a whole day boxing up and moving stock when not everything went to plan. I hope he’s grateful for the free workout! And thank you to all the others who have helped in any way – you know who you are.”
Faulkner concludes: “It’s been an emotional week and a rollercoaster of a year and we hope the excitement of opening the new store will keep us strong and focused.”