Despite recent blows in the world of retail, the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce says the town will be more resilient than most as high streets across the UK evolve.
It was revealed over the weekend that Italian restaurant chain Prezzo had earmarked its Ripon branch for closure, but the Albert Street restaurant in the centre of Harrogate could be spared under current plans.
Although brands including H&M and Topshop have left Harrogate, the President of the Harrogate Chamber of Commerce, Mike Procter, says such changes were predicted by retail figures such as Mary Portas with her 2011 review for the Government.
He said: “Closures are nothing to be fearful of. It is part of the evolution of our town centres and Harrogate will be insulated more than most because its wealth demographic.
“It is attractive to retailers and so we are likely to see increased turnover of shops rather than lots of long-term empty units. And the businesses which give shoppers what they want will survive. Those who do not, will be replaced.”
“Town centres everywhere are moving from retail domination to a different balance. Mary Portas predicted an increased emphasis on leisure and social offerings. We see this happening in Harrogate with a large increase in food and drink establishments, but there will be a saturation point. Beyond saturation, expect to see innovation. It’s what we do best in the UK.”
Although changes are underway Mr Procter said that he believes one in particular has yet to take hold.
Mr Procter said: “In my opinion, there is one major re-adjustment that has not yet started to happen. Rents are too high. This is because too few landlords are prepared to accept revaluations of their properties, which would arise from lower rents”.
Pointing to the current retail climate in Harrogate Mr Procter also suggested that residents and businesses should rely on official sources, rather than speculation.
He said: “There is an increase in the number of rumours of closures circulating, which turn out to not be true. Some even have to be publicly denied by stores themselves.”
However Mr Procter also said that businesses in Harrogate are currently in the process of creating a new fund, the Harrogate BID (Harrogate Improvement District), which will go towards improving the town centre.
At the time of writing this article a proposed Company Voluntary Agreement (CVA) had been put to Prezzo’s creditors, outlining plans to push for rent reductions at non-profitable branches. However closures of 94 branches are begin from April according to the company.
No update could be provided by electronic retailer Maplin on the future of it’s Harrogate branch, which employs 10 people, after announcing last week it was entering into administration.