The first retailer to move into Bell Court fears Stratford is falling behind other shopping towns in the region, as she prepares to relocate to Leamington.
Farringdon and Forbes moved into Bell Court in November 2017, but founder Jules Cardozo-Marsh says disappointing footfall in the development means she has made the difficult decision to move on.
The £30million development is home to a number of restaurants including Nandos and Ask Italian, but there have been eyebrows raised about the low number of retailers.
Jules said: “I would not say Bell Court has failed, but in my view it hasn’t delivered so far on what was promised. For a whole year we were the only retailer here, which was very tough and was probably when the damage to my business was done. Other retailers have moved in since, but it is disappointing that so many of the units are still empty, we’ve got pop-up shops that have come in, but that does not really fit with our brand.
“Stratford is a tourist town and places like Leamington are shopping towns, a lot of retailers are picking those places over Stratford. In my view a lack of signage has not helped Bell Court, I know the owners have tried to get some put up around town, but the council have not supported that, they’ve not helped in that department.
“Sadly I believe Stratford is just losing its edge for shopping and I think Stratford District Council and Stratforward need to act because businesses are struggling. There’s far too many markets in the town and the parking situation is not helping.
“In terms of Bell Court, I think people are a little bit disappointed when they come in because there is not enough retail.
“I’d like to come back in five years’ time and see how Bell Court has moved forward, if more retailers have moved in, but sadly for us it is just too late. We just need a bit more of a buzz around it to draw more people in.
“I’m sad to be leaving, residents have been very supportive to us and if the footfall was higher we would definitely be staying for sure.”
She added that the new shop would open on Regent Street in Leamington early in September.
Toby Saggers, Asset Manager at Blue Coast Capital, the owners of Bell Court, said: “We are naturally disappointed that Farringdon & Forbes is closing its store in Stratford-upon-Avon. We have made a significant investment in Bell Court, and are very proud of the mix of big name brand and independent retailers that we have attracted so far.
“We are proud to be located in the thriving town centre of Stratford -upon-Avon, which is one of the UK’s top tourist destinations. We wish Farringdon & Forbes all the best with their next venture.”
Responding on behalf of Stratford District Council Cllr Daren Pemberton, Deputy Leader of Stratford-on-Avon District Council and Place Portfolio Holder, says: “It is always sad to see a business leave Stratford or any other of our high streets but the individual reasons for businesses moving are complex and often outside of the control of any local authority.
“Stratford is a tourist, shopping, and market town. Markets will absolutely remain a part of the mix and are complementary to other retailers and business. They can bring a different footfall profile, and the key for the wider retail offering is to be attractive to those shoppers too. Stratford-on-Avon District Council is keen to support all retail sectors in thriving in the town.
“The issues affecting retail are structural and present major challenges for businesses and local authorities in maintaining vibrant town centres. Every shopping destination across Warwickshire faces similar issues.
“SDC actively supports the retail economy through the Business Improvement District (BID). It is clear that the overall retail offering needs to be responsive to the changing landscape and SDC will play its part in achieving this.
“Parking is jointly controlled by SDC and Warwickshire County Council. Both authorities are actively discussing how a more coherent parking strategy that benefits everyone, supports the town centre and meets our climate change objectives can be achieved.”