High Street Update

Blockbuster closing

Blockbuster closing

“If you’ve got nothing to say, don’t say anything”. Wouldn’t the world be a beautiful place if we all kept to that mantra? Well yes, probably, but here at twickerati we’re not about to find out. Despite things being fairly quiet out there, we’re going to say something about it anyway.

The biggest news is probably the least unexpected, namely that Blockbuster has joined the long list of big name high street casualties. The chain is now in administration although northern-supermarket supremos Morrisons are in the market to buy 49 Blockbuster stores and turn them into Morrisons Locals. Will Blockbuster in Twickenham be one? Will Sean Bean’s dulcet tones soon be ringing out across Heath Road? We don’t know yet. The store is about the right size for a ‘local’ supermarket and in the current climate there might not be too many other retailers willing to take on a unit of that size. The twickerati view is that the best solution is to divide the current shop into several units accommodating, say, a charity shop, a café, and an Indian takeaway. This might work well given how lacking we are in such establishments in Twickenham at the moment. Would a Morrisons work? Who knows? There’s an M&S Food and an Iceland within 200 metres and a Waitrose and Tesco Express within 1/2 mile. Add to that the Sainsburys on Twickenham Green and numerous independents and one might feel there were already enough options to buy food locally.

And talking of the impending Sainsbury’s on The Green, we’re certainly no evangelists for supermarket chains but we have to say that some of the comments submitted to the El Brute licensing committee border on the hysterical. Yes, some have genuinely valid concerns but for a few others it’s as if the addition of another outlet for alcohol near the Green is going to lead to a complete breakdown of civil society and see Twickenham morph from leafy London suburb to post-apocalyptic Mad Max-esque hell hole ruled by teenagers, powered solely by alcopops, Hollister T-shirts and iPhones and where words of more than one syllable are banned.

Opposite Blockbuster the former florist shop Chez Chevallier, the one that was both short-lived and a bit crap, has been re-let. We hear a rumour that a kitchen showroom will be moving in. Now, is there a big demand for new kitchens during a recession? Dunno. But what we do know is that a kitchen showroom would fit with the Council’s Twickenham Action Plan that dreams of having that stretch of Heath Road populated by such establishments. A DIY heaven, if you will. Or will it be a kitchen gadget shop, perhaps? We’ve heard it said that Twickenham lacks a place to purchase that oh-so-special lemon squeezer and so maybe that could work too. Anyone?

The Crown on Richmond Road? Remember when that used to be a working pub? Well, we’ve spotted a few signs of movement there. Is the long awaited refurb going to happen? Maybe it is. If so, then it could awaken to find a different pub-scene from when it closed many, many months ago. Given the positive foodie reviews coming in for Ales & Tails (York Street) and The Aleksander (Richmond Road) not to mention a recent refurb of The Bear (York Street), a rejuvenated Crown might have some stiff competition to contend with. But it has to re-open first.

Talking of recent openings, it’s great to see Rubens Bakery busy, especially at the weekends – people are loving Igor’s bread & pastries – while just over the road, Café Fresh is going to start opening (with BYO drinks) into the evenings. With COOK on London Road also proving popular, is Twickenham finally beginning to catch up with other ‘burbs in the foodie stakes? Actually, ‘The Foodie Stakes’ sounds a bit too horsey for our liking, so we’ll duck that question and quickly press on.

So what of trading condition generally? We asked Mike from Milestone Commercial for some top Twickenham tips. The man from Milestone he say this: “We appear to be entering into a fairly stable period which, after a pretty dismal run into Christmas with the demise of half a dozen premises, is probably no bad thing”.

With plenty of empty shops in Twickenham, any would-be new ventures don’t lack a choice of premises but Mike also pointed out how in the King Street area, “The voids are starting to hang around a little longer than one would hope. Many of the shops here are owned by a London investment vehicle and managed by London agents which is unfortunate as local agents work hard to keep the shops full or at least proactively marketed”.

And we also got some pointers from him that we can expect to see new businesses emerging at what were: Din’s Grill on York Street (a new cafe), JoJoLoo on Heath Road (a new spices and ingredients store) and maybe even some movement on re-letting the old Piano Lounge in an incarnation that’s very different from its previous one. And the old CAB office on Heath Road is also on the market with restaurant use.

Milestone Mike also gave a reminder that rising business rates continue to be a major problem for many companies, “The 2.6% rise businesses face in April 2013 comes after a 5.6% rise in 2012 and a 4.6% rise in 2011”. Ouch. But perhaps things aren’t totally grim. “It does feel like there’s an undercurrent of recovery,” he said. Let’s hope so.

And in another positive move, a Business Improvement District (BID) is being set up in Twickenham under the Time for Twickenham banner. BID panel member, Carla Knox of Sweet Memories, explained it to us: “The BID is an arrangement where businesses get together, decide what improvements they want to make in their town centre, how they will manage these and what it will cost them. This all goes into a business plan which is voted on by all those who would have to pay”. BIDs run for five years and need to demonstrate that they’re making improvements or delivering services over and above those already provided. If you ask our opinion, which you didn’t, we’d say that it sounds like a good bit of self-help.

So folks, we said there wasn’t much to say but maybe we got it wrong. Again. But don’t you worry about that, just stay tuned for more updates on a high street near you. (Err, that means Twickenham, obviously)


Filed under Food & Drink, High Street Updates

62 responses to “High Street Update

  1. dcmesq

    Very sad to see Carpet House on York Street is closing down along with the Rugby Store.

    This is not good news for the High Street.

  2. twickerman

    I like the idea of transforming Twickenham from a cheese desert into a cheese oasis with fountains of fondue, cascades of camembert and waterfalls of molten munster.
    We could be known as ‘Twickenham – the gouda cheese centre’, though that strapline isn’t as edam amusing as I’d hoped!

    • Gareth Roberts

      Bienvenu a Twickedam, Le Village de Fromage

    • Gorgon Zola

      A good cheeserie is sorely needed. Waitrose is OKish, Laverstock too limited and pricey. How about asking Teddington Cheese to open up? I’d go anywhere for their Burrata and Delice de Bougogne.

    • twickerman

      Hi Gorgon,
      My cheesy suggestion was in response to a comment, from ‘Anonymous’ below, suggesting Tedder Cheese opens here.
      That comment has many thumbs up.
      Name & address supplied.

    • Rufus McDufus

      Was talking about this with my wife when we went for a walk down to the town centre yesterday. Sandy’s have a fairly good selection I believe, but also the wine shop that keeps changing its name near M&S has started stocking cheese too apparently.

  3. Vanessa

    Surfing the net for shops to rent, it is incredible the numbers of vacant shops. Yet landlords would rather have an empty shop than lower rentals. Richmond council could help by wavering the business rates also, at least for the first year. King street, the business rates are similar to that of Chelsea & Kensington!

  4. Simon H

    Hi Twickregenerate. Thanks for your reply below on change of use (sorry, I can’t do a direct reply). You say cafes and restaurants are A1 planning class, but according to the council website they are A3 (shops are A1) (http://www.richmond.gov.uk/home/environment/planning/planning_and_business/change_of_use.htm) . You do need planning permission to convert A1 to A3, so surely the council does have some say in how many shops become cafes. Or am I missing something?

    I’ve nothing against cafes and restaurants, per se, but we have far too many and every new one that opens puts the nail in the coffin of an already struggling business and does nothing to improve the high street. For the handful of recent successes, such as Harris and Hoole, there have been many more failures.

    • Simon H

      Harris & Hoole’s planning permission is on the council’s website. It had to ask permission to go from A1 to A1/A3, so surely the council did have some control there. However, I understand more what Twickregenerate was driving at below now. Cafes and restaurants are indeed A3, but coffee shops can call themselves A1, thus getting round the planning rules. This is a very odd loophole—and I’m not sure whether it’s something that can be tackled at local or central government level. Apparently, Patisserie Valerie has A1 status because it sells coffees over the counter, but how is it not a cafe? The same is true of Starbucks etc. Both have clear A3 uses.

  5. Purple Haze

    According to this week’s Richmond & Twickenham Times, Burger King is going to appeal to amend it’s opening hours.
    Paul Dickinson & Associates have applied on behalf of Karali Leisure to vary 1.02 condition RE01, attached to the previous planning permission.
    At present there doesn’t appear to be anything in the latest variations to premises licences on the LBRUT website.

  6. Some good news: work on the refurbishment of the Crown on Richmond Road has restarted after a long and ominous pause. No indication of a relaunch date as yet.

    • Dukes of Orleans

      Work is coming along on the refurb. Thankfully they have re-painted the outside and got rid of that dreadful dark colour! Looks like they are doing things well, so could be a bonus for the area once completed.

  7. twickerman

    Last night I was please to see that the SeaFresh Chippy on London Road had reopened.

    It seemed a good idea to have some fish & chips on my way home from the pub.

    But it wasn’t. It was probably the most disgusting take-away ever! And I’ve had a few! :-

    The fish was soggy, mushy & tasteless (a sign of it being frozen & old) despite it being cooked to order, and the chips were cold. I only ate 1/3 of the fish & 1/4 of the chips, before giving up, even though I was very hungry!

    All the staff are new and were friendly, and they advised me that Seafresh is still owned by the same franchisee who also runs the neighbouring Wimpy and London Kebabs. Apparently it was closed because of roof problems.

    My advice, if you want some fresh fish & chips, is to walk straight past ‘SeaFresh’ onto PKs Fishbar at London/Whitton Rd junction…….if only I’d done that last night!

  8. @upend

    Another go at a bathroom shop – Maybe they think we’re a little more flush now?

  9. Copthallresident

    At least we have seen that if someone moves into a shop, even in the dead zone twixt (as the estate agents say in cooler places) the green and river, with a product people actually want they can be a roaring success. I still think the Council should be in at an early stage advising on sound business strategies because it has actually been really sad to see the people behind ventures like Jojoloo and Chez Chevalier play out their tragedies under our noses. Surely someone can persuade even a London firm that that is in their long term interest.

    • twickregenerate

      If you talk to Mike @Milestone he will tell you of his despair at the guys from Jojoloo. I had several conversations with the flower shop owner from Chez Chevallier, I have many many conversations with businesses, and so many set up with so little market research or even knowledge about cashflow and the impact of slow-starts the importance of promotion and getting out there rather than relying on business to just ‘walk through the door’. York Street Cafe’s Nina and Peter really listened, I helped them, they are a rugby welcoming brunch establishment who are making use of every opportunity, have stepped back in where Norma’s left off and more, and have a terrific little open garden for finer days than today and any smokers can enjoy their purple blankets and cushions when it isn’t total brass monkey weather.

      The businesses who are typically working are those who want to communicate with each other through the camaraderie and advice and support offered through the Twickenham Town Business Association and its amazing committee of local businesses and chaired by very hands on old timer of 50 years in the town Bruce Lyons and family from Crusader Travel in Church Street. Ales and Tales have reached out, the Twickerati bloggers drink and meet up is one of those examples of communicating, making friends with allies, celebrating, and being out there!

      You can lead a horse to water but you cannot make it drink, and no amount of money is going to make any difference if the homework has not been done and the engagement is not there, would you not agree?.

      Keep it up Twickenham businesses and us Twickerati supporters keep writing and telling the businesses how good they are and supporting them if they are making a real difference in the community, Laverstoke are, no horse there, Igor is now he is extending his hours and has amazing chocolate muffins like you wouldn’t believe, along with all of his great soda breads and has a full suite of the sweet things too, keep it up guys, and keep Tweeting and telling everyone of the places and passion in our Town, we are an overgrown tightly packed Village size group of residents who want the core of offerings to grow and become more specialist, and give us more of what we want than what we don’t, afterall the 10,000 or so who live in the direct environs vote with their feet and their purse/wallet don’t they?

      Any answers to buying underwear in Town, for both sexes, or even a shirt, any thoughts on what type of shop might succeed, not even Richmond has a wide offering so much for us chaps?

    • Walkinthe park

      The advice would be better from a disinterested objective party with an official role who could offer advice with the credibility of being an expert in sound business practise and no other agenda, and would carry out the task with sensitivity, would you not agree? With all due respect whilst the Twickenham Town Association might be doing a great job, what you write sounds very “old boy’s club” and might be intimidating / raise the hackles of a new shop owner, especially if they are from a different culture, gender or sexuality. I don’t think you need to throw money at it, just for our Council to come up with some imaginative ideas aimed at facilitating successful businesses.

      You all but write if you aren’t with “us” you stand no chance,

    • Hester Huttenbach

      I wish someone would open an haberdasher. Surely I’m not the only one who uses a sewing machine. Going into Kingston to buy threads/zips etc is a real nuisance.

    • CP

      A general craft shop would be really nice. I recall seeing Happicraft when looking to move here and thinking it was such, but on closer inspection it seems to be a children’s shop. Even a Hobbycraft wouldn’t go amiss.

    • jimbo

      there is a lot of “crafty” stuff at Squires, 6th Cross Rd, recently refurbished.

    • Hester Huttenbach

      Thanks for your replies. Crafts are not the same as haberdashery. An outlet of Fabricworld would be ace, with everything you could possibly want for dressmaking/tailoring as well as embroidery etc.and certainly a lot cheaper than John Lewis. HH

    • Have you tried Mrs Moon on Crown Road? They sell haberdashery as well as knitting yarn.

  10. Anonymous

    I’ve said it before but there are too many retail units in Twickenham. Need to turn some into accommodation and move everyone along Heath Rd towards town creating a full and vibrant core.

    • Anon

      The rather expensive consultants the council paid for at our expense said the same thing, it appears the council not only refuse to listen to local business owners and residents, but also their own paid consultants who are experts in the field.

      There re so many examples of them ignoring these recommendations – for instance, less retail at the train station and heading out from the town centre, so it draws people into the town centre, yet both the station developement and the proposals for the post office site have retail involved.

    • twickerman

      I don’t see what the fuss is with having one cafe at the station (as there is currently) and potentially two cafe/bar/restaurants next to the proposed sorting office development.

      The multi-purpose, multi-storey cultural centre on the sorting office site will draw many residents and visitors to this neglected area of Twickenham.

      This surely is a big positive in the regeneration of the town.

    • Rufus McDufus

      There will also be a few thousand more residents when these developments are completed which is good news for retailers. Maybe not such good news for existing residents though.

    • twickerman

      A few hundred more residents, not a few thousand!

  11. anonanon

    In the small town I grew up in they use the unoccupied shops to promote the work of local artisans (sorry!) in the window, which benefits very small businesses, makes the street look more attractive, and might make the shop more appealing to a potential tenant, rather than a void. I appreciate there is not much in it for the landlord in the short term, but anything promoting the space, is better than nothing. I am surprised that Twickenham is not getting more pop-up shops. I am sure there are numerous small businesses who might not feel confident about a long term commitment, but would be happy to try dipping their toe in the water…

    • Shona

      There is a very good initiative organised by LBRuT for would be entrepreneurs to open a pop up shop with very little risk financially – they are offering a grant of up to £2,000 to anyone with a good business plan as long as the shop is on the high street – you can find the application form on LBRuT web site – just put in pop up shop grant into the search engine –

    • Shona

      I guess thats because its very topical right now- so many empty shops – & a high street that lacks almost everything in the way of practicle neccessities let alone anything more interesting in the way of providing the “retail experience” which everyone seems to say is the future for retail in an internet age.

    • Mike

      “…lacks almost everything in the way of practicle neccessities…”

      Actually that’s just not true of Twickenham – a great butcher, fishmonger, baker, reasonable greengrocer, adequate Boots and Superdrug, a well-run Waterstones, a fair WHSmith, a good local M&S Food and a reasonable Waitrose, and a good number of little independent shops. Oh, and a fantastic, proper farmers market every Saturday. The problem in Twickenham is too many retail premises hence all the cafes and charity shops and empty lets – but I’d rather have on the doorstep what we do have than live in Richmond or Kingston where you can clothes shop well enough, or buy kitchen equipment, but there’s only supermarkets and chain bakers for food.

      Getting the balance right when there is a surfeit of premises (and a local economy slightly skewed by big match days) is definitely a challenge.

    • Cracking post and what’s more if it does not have it you simply walk to Richmond or Tedd (for those fancy cooking essentials) or Kingston if you really need something…

      We also have one of the best selection of pubs in the area, in fact thinking about it there aint much wrong with the area…

    • Anonymous

      Anyone fancy starting a campaign to get the Teddington Cheese to open a branch in Twickenham? It’s a bit of a cheese desert at the moment.

    • Shona

      I think it is right from my own personal perspective.
      I like to make things but there is no good art or craft shop here.
      There is no place to buy sewing things to patch or darn clothes.
      If I wanted to buy a decent range of organic veg there is nowhere apart from the supermarkets & their range is not very interesting or reasonable in price – I work on Saturday so the novelty farmers market doesn’t work for me – there is nowhere to buy bedding or hosiery or underwear or plates – cups etc, who wants to buy those kind of things from a big impersonal supermarket?

      I’d say those kind of things are pretty basic – there are loads of streets in most London boroughs & all over the world actually with loads upon loads of shops cheek to jowl with each other – maybe that’s the way people seem to congregate naturally together in the retail world or maybe it’s flawed urban planning & slowly a new model will emerge but I like town centres & think they make urban life interesting but I think that one good fishmonger, baker & butcher is pretty minimal in terms of having a good range of local shops to choose from & it’s sad that people have to work in and shop in these huge impersonal shops like waitrose marks & tescos instead of being able to go down their high street & shop from interesting & interested local independant retail traders – there is no individuality & personally I think that is sad.

    • Hester Huttenbach

      You obviously haven’t walked around to Kingston Market Place where you will find an excellent butcher, 2 really good bread stalls, a fresh fish stall and another excellent baker on the alleyway with the Apple Market.

    • Anonymous

      I was just about to post something along the same lines. I think the creative ‘sector’ or the third sector (though not in the form of charity shop) has a huge role to play in in the local economy, and one way of doing this is coming up with creative ways of engaging with the high street.
      I used to live in Liverpool and they have a biennial festival which always includes ‘pop up’ galleries in empty units. This might also work in Twickenham if it was enabled by the council.
      There’s one unit in particular which I always muse about when I go past. It is the building next to TH Sanders funeral director, opposite Isfahan Carpets, so almost at the train bridge by the green. It would be perfect for a gallery.
      Twickerati, have you considered a pop up blog? Take a unit for a month and have some kind of community planning went where people can discuss ideas for their neighbourhood?

    • Hester Huttenbach

      If you mean the unit on the corner of Saville Rd, that is owned by Tesco who changed their mind when the Red Lion was offered! And talk is that the Tesco car park will become pay and display.

  12. milestone

    I see a coffee application is in for Dapper on Church Street, Wild about coffee ltd.. what would London look like if we hated coffee?


    • Simon H

      I’d love to read these people’s business plans. I think that’s 130 cafes, restaurants, take-aways and pubs that do food now.

    • Mumto1plus2

      Would you rather another charity shop? Do we still have a Town Centre Manager? Could said manager organise drinks in a brewery do you think?

    • Simon H

      I think the town-centre manager/the council would say that they can’t stop landlords opening whatever sort of shop they want (within reason). But, in fact, they can block change of use from retail to cafe, yet as Clintons becoming Harris and Hoole shows, they don’t. I don’t understand why—perhaps they can only do so in limited circumstances. Scott Naylor might have more of an insight.

    • jimbo

      Martha Carney (?spelling) on the One o’clock news today said her High St consisted mainly of charity shops, coffee shops (head nodding) and… pawn shops (or did she mean porn shops – surely not?). So perhaps that’s what we need, folks- more pawn shops

    • twickregenerate

      Thanks Simon. A coffee shop is an A1 use, so nothing stopping that happening I am afraid! In fact coffee shops are very good business bases nowadays, don’t knock them, we need them instead of ofices and as meeting points do we not, and places to work, just look at the row of plug points in cafe Nero!

    • twickregenerate

      I will revert Simon on how Harris & Hoole took a retail unit and changed to a coffee shop in the primary classified shopping area. There are occasions where coffee is established in A1 but where is secondary to the main business activity, you are right that the classification of A3 deals with cafe and restaurant, however there are workrounds like reheating only of food which doesn’t need cooking as such which allows coffee shops to use retail A1.

  13. Katherine Heffernan

    I’d love to see a decent kitchenware shop in Twickenham but it would be a brave gamble by someone to open one during a downturn.

    On that note, it would be great if someone were to open Langtons as a general store or posh Woolworths – selling decent-quality ironmongery/kitchenware, stationery, a small range of household linen, and clothing basics (smalls, hosiery and T-shirts) for all ages. And papers.

    • Mumto1plus2

      I like the idea of a decent general store but I think they would feel there is no market. Poundland sells all the cheap versions of the items you describe, then Waitrose has a limited selection of better quality kitchenware and the rest you can order from John Lewis and collect in store for free too. We also have WHSmith for stationery. That said, I still miss Woolies and would be grateful not to have to get in the car to find a decent variety of items…

  14. CP

    As a Twickenham Green resident, I have yet to see any of this wanton destruction that is apparently prevalent in the vicinity. My reasons for not wanting a Sainsbury’s have nothing to do with alcohol – they’re mainly of a logistical nature, not to mention that we are already spoilt for choice with regards to food. Of course, I would rather see a shop trading than an empty facade. And I do like Sainsbury’s plaited rolls.

  15. Karl

    it struck me the other day that there is nowhere to buy new men’s clothes in Twickenham. There’s a massive hole in the market for that.

    • Teresa

      you want men’s clothes! that is quite a tall order for twickenham when you can’t even buy any decent tights.

    • Anonymous

      Women’s clothes would be of little use to me without a major lifestyle change…

    • Mumto1plus2

      The Rugby Store sells mens clothes. Because we live in Twickenham we should all wear rugby shirts and shorts all the time. Swing low… 😉

  16. Lol re: Sainsburys…

    I can’t say I am devastated to lose Blockbusters, but am unexcited by the notion of a Morrisons. (I am inclined to agree with the lady who commented on Twitter that Twick could really do with a children’s clothing shop).

    And “meh” to another showroom springing up. It was bad enough in East Twick when endless showrooms sprung up in the place of independent shops like the lovely Rembrandt Arts that used to sit at the foot of Richmond Bridge.

    Anyway, thanks for another entertaining and informative update.

  17. Simon Cassini

    i wish there could be a new par-ici selling stuff made by local craftsmen but unless it can be basically given charity status and cheap or non existent rent and rates i dont hold out much hope of it being able to stay in business.

    • twickregenerate

      It is possible Simon as discussed, am interested to explore further into classification asd status. Looking at a pop-up shop in East Twickenham right now. Let’s meet and talk further with you guys. Scott

  18. Steve P

    Is Cook really doing that well, it seems like tumbleweed central to me lot of the time? The horsemeat scandal could do the trick – they had a sign up saying they knew what meat they used as they minced it themselves – free range unicorn, judging by the prices. And has Sea Fresh gone tuna belly up?

  19. Ignitionnet

    Thanks for the link to those objections to the Sainsbury’s licence. I needed a chuckle on a Monday morning and those obliged.

    • Rufus McDufus

      Some of the comments are a little over the top, but it’s not fair to poke fun at people’s opinions. These are the ones who wil be most affected by the development so it’s only fair that they have a say in the matter.

      I’m yet to be convinced how Sainsbury’s could work in terms of deliveries? They’re going to have to park trucks outside the front of the shop which will block the road surely?

    • Article already says there are some valid reasons to object but have now added the word ‘genuinely’ to make that clearer. Deliveries, parking, opening hours & signage are all valid reasons, or potentially valid, reasons. But those who seem to suggest that Sainsburys will initiate a mass outbreak of alcohol induced violence might need reminding that alcohol is already widely available near The Green and that of the two nearby shops that have closed down in the wake of selling booze to underage drinkers, both were independents not national chains.

  20. I asked the builders in What-Was-Chez-Chevalier what the shop was going to sell and was told “kitchen and bathrooms.” My question of “so you can do me a nice cheap bathroom then?” was met with a wry chuckle.

    They’re certainly putting the time and effort into the refurb: gutting it entirely and laying new floors so hopefully this won’t be another ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ shop on this site.