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With 50 shops empty or changing hands in Stratford town centre, the Herald looks at what the story is behind each unit

Special report: Changing face of the high street (45798332)
Special report: Changing face of the high street (45798332)

Fears for the UK’s high streets continue as the pandemic takes its toll on the economy.

In central Stratford more than 50 retail and hospitality outlets are currently empty or seeing a change of hands or use. Covid has conspired with other threats, such as online and out of town shopping, to bring the situation to a crisis point. More bad news came as the Herald went to press when the town heard it was not going to receive funding under the government’s High Street Task Force scheme, despite being fourth hardest hit local economy in the country.

But even as businesses are going under, others are emerging. Here Tim Cox, a chartered surveyor working in Stratford for over 25 years, talks through what is happening with premises in the town centre.

Tim Cox (45460551)
Tim Cox (45460551)

Chartered surveyor Tim Cox: Stratford as a town centre is going to bounce back well, although inevitably there will be a reduction in rents, but I think that may be short term. Henley Street seems to have held up better than most.

At the moment the national retailers are quite demanding – they’ll come into the town, want six months or whatever. Landlords are therefore favouring independent businesses.

This is a real opportunity for independents which is great as it gives us more width and a variety of different uses. I think it’s going to be a busy summer, and if government guidelines allow, Stratford is going to recover really well.

We don’t really know the full picture yet, the test will be when shops are allowed to open – which ones actually do or not. We don’t know if the shop is empty because they are not keeping stock on display or if they’ve decided to come out of the lease.

Inevitably, high streets are going to go down the leisure route, every town centre is experiencing that. We’re seeing more coffee shops and upper floors being converted to residential.

The state of play

Those marked * information has not come from Tim, but elsewhere

Town centre units 1-24 (45798328)
Town centre units 1-24 (45798328)

1. Bridge Street, was BHS. It is sold to an investor with a hotel operator, Bespoke, in place, and they are meant to be starting work in October. Bespoke hotels have opened in Coventry as part of the City of Culture. They are a substantial operator. It’s a shame to see an empty building, I would love to do something with it but the vendor says they are committed to going ahead. They’re a wealthy property company so they will do at a time to suit them, as opposed to us really.

2. 32 Sheep Street. This was the Stratford Gallery, who relocated to Broadway, and I’m marketing this one on a freehold basis and that is under offer. It’s being bought by a local family, what they do with it is up to them, they don’t have to tell me, so whether they will rent it out or occupy it I don’t know.

3. The Old Barn, Sheep Street. This is owned by the same people who have got Charles French next door and they have planning permission to convert upper floors to residential. They had agreed to let it to the Old Barn on a 12- month renewable licence and they had been there two or three years while they sorted planning out, now they have got planning they are going to start the conversion work, so the tenants have moved out and they will be using the shop as a sort of base to do the works inside.

4. Mida Restaurant, 22 High Street. They are still there, but have been trying to sell the business. They are waiting to be allowed to open. It’s difficult to sell a business while it’s not trading.

5. Hathaway Tea Rooms, 19 High Street. The lease for this ended, and the owner is selling this and next door (no 20), where Roly’s Fudge is. He’s got an offer but is waiting to see if he can find better.

6. 30 High Street. This is the old Curry’s. We haven’t got any offers on this but we have had interest from national retailers as well as independents. That will go, I’m confident of that, it’s a nice shop. The problem is that Curry’s were paying over £100,000 a year. They sold the freehold and the upper floors are being fitted out as residential. The new owner will want to rent out the shop at the right rent.

7. *Bell Court units. Rich Jones, manager, said: "Bell Court remains positive about the retail market in Stratford-upon-Avon and eagerly awaits the reopening in April.

The Bell Court scheme is almost completely fully let, with interest in the vacant units, and a number of new operators opening in the coming months. We have worked with our tenants during this difficult period and through their flexibility and innovation, our tenants are well placed to reopen on 12th April."

8. 17 Rother Street, former Herald offices. I think this has now been sold. The front is wonderful but probably not that valuable because it needs so much work, and then it’s got that 1960s bit at the back – I don’t know how it ever got planning. But presumably it will be refurbished as flats or something like that.

9. 18 Rother Street, was Lloyds chemist. They will be marketing that shortly. Money needs spending to put it back in good order, and then Peter Clarke will be instructed to let that one.

10. Paperway, 25 Greenhill Street. This is nothing to do with the pandemic, it’s just been empty for about five years, which is a bit odd.

11. Age UK, 36 Greenhill Street. That is one of mine and that is under offer for retail use, and should be open when permitted.

12. 37 Greenhill Street. The old fabric shop. The freehold has been sold to a predominantly residential developer, who will turn the upper floors into residential use and then will decide what to do with the ground floor.

13. Former nail bar, end of Greenhill Street. Unsure of status, Peter Clarke is marketing it.

14. The old Chicago Rock café, Greenhill Street, is on a long lease with Orbit housing.

15. 12c Greenhill Street. This was Stratford Barber Club and is under offer, as far as I know, for a retail outlet.

16. Old recruitment office, Greenhill Street, status unknown.

17. Coiffure by David is empty because of course the owner sadly died, not to do with Covid.

18. 2 Henley Street, Henley Tweed. This is a Stratford Town Trust property, which is on the market through Colliers.

19. *22 Henley Street, formerly Traditions of Britain, owned by SBT, future unknown.

20. 7 Henley Street, formerly Magpiebox. Owned by the town trust. This has been let to a jeweller who is fitting it out.

21. Unit 2, Bards Walk. Pret took it on a long lease and are still liable for it, so I think they are in discussion about marketing the lease through some London agents.

22. 43 Wood Street. This was the Acorn Hospice shop. We’re marketing it – it’s under offer by a chocolate/patisserie/coffee shop, so fingers crossed on that.

23. 37 Wood Street, the old Thomas Cook. Retail use lease being marketed by Sheldon Bosley Knight.

24. 13 Wood Street. Paxton and Whitfield has closed. We’re marketing that and we have got interest. but it is still set out as a cheese shop with racking and fridges and the tenants are obliged to remove the items to get the shop back to what it was. As of next week contactors are doing that and then it will be redecorating it.

Town centre units 25-48 (45798330)
Town centre units 25-48 (45798330)

25 12 Wood Street, The old Gemini shoe shop – stock has been moved back into the main Gemini shop. We’re marketing that on a freehold or rental basis and we’ve had a handful of people looking at it. There’s potential to change the upper floors to residential.

26 *Debenhams. Blue Coast Capital, the owners of Bell Court say that despite the impact of the pandemic and the blow to Stratford’s tourist economy over the past year, they are still very much committed to the new hotel in the Debenhams building.

27 9A Union Street – the old Achille hair salon; it’s being refitted as another hairdresser.

28 3 Union Street. This is looking at getting residential at the top so holding off letting at the moment.

29 3b Union Street. This is under offer be office-based use.

29 24-26 Bridge Street. The old Laura Ashley has been bought by an investor who has also purchased the Tesco’s shop next door, which is income producing. They are looking at letting it as a whole – although the Laura Ashley unit is huge, it’s 9,000 sq ft, and a lot of people who were looking at it before its sale were aiming to create a unit half its size, and then convert the back bit to residential, subject to planning permission, and that’s what this party will be looking to do too.

30 1 High Street, the former Crabtree and Evelyn shop. This is owned by the Town Trust, who are carrying out remedial work upstairs. I think the intention is to let it out as a flat and then they’ll let out the shop.

31 16 Bridge Street. The old Clinton’s – it is under offer, I don’t’ know what business will go in there.

32 13 Bridge Street, the old Jaeger – that’s owned by the Town Trust, and is under offer to a retailer.

33 12 Bridge Street, was Mistral, also owned by Town Trust who say: “Crew Clothing have started their fitout and will be ready to open on 12th April.”

34 10 Bridge Street, was Hotter, that is under offer, not sure who to but is subject to a change of use, so that maybe implies a coffee shop or similar.

35 27 Bridge Street, was Edinburgh Woollen Mill. I’m marketing that with Savills and that is under offer as well to a restaurant use with possibly a boutique hotel upstairs.

36 30 Bridge Street, was L’Occitane. That is under offer.

37 Jack Wills, High Street, future is uncertain.

38 Phase Eight, Old Red Lion Court. Existing tenants lease expires today (24th March) and terms agreed with new tenant to complete within next seven days.

39 Roobarb Kids, Old Red Lion Court. Available to let but offer received on asking terms

40 You-nique, Old Red Lion Court, lease for sale.

41 Kitchen/bathroom/stove shop, Old Red Lion Court. Lease surrendered and new letting completed and tenants fitting out.

42 *Cat Café, Union Street. Business and lease for sale.

43 *Deli Café, Meer Street. Business and lease for sale.

44 *Avon Lounge Café, Rother Street. Business and lease for sale.

45 *No 9 Church Street. Restaurant is under offer.

46 *Flower Shop, Rother Street. Business and lease for sale.

47 *Meer Street. Was Edwards Estate Agents who moved out in January. Freehold of entire property now for sale.

48 *Turquoise Kitchen, fittings and lease for sale

For more on this story, see Part II here

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