Tough times for Wimbledon’s independent traders despite new government incentives


Small businesses are finding it hard to survive.


By Ellie Pipe

The government announced plans this week to stand up for small businesses, but will this be enough for Wimbledon’s independent shops?

High rates and an influx of supermarket and restaurant chains are making it hard to survive, say some of Wimbledon’s small business owners.

Joe Thubron has owned Copperfield’s secondhand bookshop in Wimbledon for the past 13 years.  He says running a viable business is getting harder, and he has seen the closure of most other bookshops in the borough.

“The Broadway could be anywhere, there are no interesting independent shops,” said Mr Thubron.

“Unless there are concessions for independent traders, this will always be the case. Only national chains and charity shops can afford to stay here.”

Love Wimbledon BID is the 125th Business Improvement District (BID) in the country. One of its aims is to support Wimbledon’s businesses and help the town centre to realise its full potential.

There is criticism from some sectors who say that the BID does not specifically help independent businesses who are unable to compete with the big chains when faced with high rates and no concessions.

Sue Bathia’s husband owns The Junction Box Newsagent and Post Office in Wimbledon and agrees that the council does nothing to support independent businesses.

“The rates are so high and the opening of Sainsbury’s, Morrisons and Tesco don’t help at all,” said Mrs Bathia.

“All you see is betting shops and restaurants.”

While some independent businesses undoubtedly struggle in a competitive market place, not all tell the same story.

Gerrys of Wimbledon has been on the Broadway for over 50 years and grown dramatically in that time to become one of the largest fishing tackle and outdoor specialist shops in the South East.

Sales assistant Scott Kean has worked at Gerrys since 1998 and says he has seen recent booms in sales of Barbers and Hunter wellingtons in line with national trends.

Mr Keane attributes much of the store’s success to the popularity of fishing and outdoor pursuits as hobbies, as well as the fact that you have to go into store to buy a gun.

Leader of Merton Council, Councillor Stephen Alambritis said he was committed to supporting business in the borough.

We recognise that independent businesses are vital to the local economy, and we are committed to offering them a range of support packages,” he said.

“We recently launched a business loan fund for businesses with growth potential. We also offer practical advice and support for start ups through our business support service and have a shop front improvement grant, established businesses can apply for. Our long-standing and successful partnership with Merton Chamber of Commerce ensures that business are well represented in Merton.”

Proposals outlined by the Prime Minister at the Federation of Small Businesses’ first Policy Conference include tax cuts and a 1.1 billion package of business rates relief.

Photo courtesy of Jim Linwood, with thanks.

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