Are retailers paying too high a price?

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Proprietors Paula Auchincloss and Rachael Hand describe closing down the business as a “heartfelt shame” and warn that Stratford is in danger of becoming a “faceless town”.

“We’ve given it everything, but while we have a beautiful location it’s not somewhere you would automatically go to on a trip into town. Our business is also seasonal. We do well from April to September but when visitor numbers are down we suffer and we’ve got bills to pay so we’ve had to close the shop,” Paula said.

“We loved being part of the community and visitors loved the very Britishness of our products, whether it’s pottery, prints, jewellery or fabrics. I’m worried that Stratford is in danger of becoming a faceless town if it loses its unique independent businesses. Then it will look like any other town,” said Paula.

Mr Zahawi said: “It is always sad to lose an independent local business, Rachael and Paula contacted me about closing down.

“Footfall had been especially difficult this year and rents in town remain high. We have agreed to meet in the new year to discuss the pressures on small business.

“The Government is carrying out a review of business rates, as well as announcing that they will be devolved to local government. Feedback from small business is crucial.

“I wish Rachael and Paula all the very best for the future. Entrepreneurs are the heroes of our society and they should be celebrated in success and recognised for their hard work, even when there is a set back like this.

“The Arter was a great independent business, hence why it won the business award last year. I am certain Rachael and Paula will be back.”

Shakespeare Birthplace Trust will open a gift shop in the space vacated by The Arter.

Swarovski in Wood Street, Stratford, also closed over Christmas.

Other empty units include: the old HMV and Marlowe’s restaurant in High Street; Time Warp in Henley Street and, in Wood Street, The Framing and Mirrors Shop while Country Casuals is set to close soon.

What do you think of the town centre and the shops it has to offer. Send your views to be featured on the Herald’s weekly letters page to news@stratford-herald.com