I READ on Curchod & Co’s website that Farnham has recently been ranked tenth nationally in the UK’s top 100 retail hotspots, compiled by marketing and data specialist CACI Ltd for Property Week.
Also, that the town has some 34 per cent of the population falling within Class A/B (A and B being the most affluent in society), more than 50 per cent higher than the national average.
Retail occupancy is currently markedly higher than other towns. That means independent shops and shop companies want to locate here.
* BBC report
In a BBC report on April 30, the chief executive of the British Property Federation, Melanie Leech, said “inevitably there will be casualties” among retailers and that a likely 50 per cent reduction in shops on a typical high street would now take place over a shorter time frame.
In the same report, Andrew Goodacre, the chief executive of the British Independent Retailers’ Association, told MPs that 20 per cent of its members may not reopen because it would be more expensive for them to run their shops if footfall is low, as expected.
Scary stuff. But Farnham, as we all know, is not an ordinary town.
On the back of last week’s article, the BBC report and trying to get statements from the commercial agents for the former Argos store and the former post office, I discovered several shops are currently advertised as available in Farnham – more than I was aware of.
That said, there is strong interest in some of them.
You will recall the shop next to the St Georges Yard entrance has now been taken. Farnham is a place where independents want to be.
* Former post office
First, though, responses from the commercial agents for the post office, BNP Paribas Real Estate – nothing. The agent’s particulars record the space is available on long leasehold, 2,116ft² in size, ‘sale’ value £350,000.
You may recall that when the Post Office had their ‘consultation’ in 2019 they told everyone Royal Mail needed the space and it wouldn’t be available for letting or sale. Well, so much for that!
* Former Argos store
The agents for the former Argos store come up as both Johnson Fellows and Savills. I am afraid to tell you there is no responses from either.
Mixed messages from the agent’s particulars – existing lease expires in February 2025, or new lease, rent £140,000 or £130,000pa, floor areas 5,835ft² or 7,402ft² but they agree a massive 2017 rateable value of £141,000. To put the areas in perspective, M&S’s proposed space at Brightwells is 18,000ft².
* Shops currently available for sale or let
I count 17 in the town centre, excluding the Laura Ashley and Bowley shops:
- Former Gift Station, Lion & Lamb Yard
- Former Colony Interiors, Lion & Lamb Yard
- Former Noa Noa, West Street
- Age UK, West Street
- Carphone Warehouse, West Street
- Little Village Interiors, Downing Street
- Strutt Parker and adjoining shop, Downing Street
- Former Maison Blanc, The Borough
- BJ Phone shop, The Borough
- Former Dorothy Perkins, The Borough
- Former BHF, The Borough
- Former Breeze, Borelli Yard
- Mimosa, South Street
- Castles, South Street
- Former William Hill, East Street
- Former Solent Cleaners, East Street
As we move out of the pandemic, I have no doubt businesses will start up in some of these shops, but realistically there is a strong likelihood other businesses will decide to move out. We hope not.
Brightwells is due to be open for business early next year, we are told.
This offers another 24 shops (one of the 25 ‘taken’ by Seasalt) and seven restaurants (one of the eight ‘taken’ by Ask Italian).
The owners of Ask Italian, the Azzurri Group, have recently instructed accounting firm KPMG to consider restructuring options for their businesses.