These are hard times financially and Dulwich is not immune from the effects of the credit crunch. Many residents were becoming worried over the potential loss of shop tenants in West Dulwich and Half Moon Lane (though both have been re-let) but there is now also considerable concern over the viability of several shops in Dulwich Village. Rumours abound but, at the time of writing, not only has Gill Holland, the dress shop, closed, but Studio 45 has given notice confirming that it too will close in September - and several rent reviews, including the Post Office, are due in the next 12 months.
People tend to blame the Dulwich Estate, saying that the rents they set are too high, but all shopkeepers will also have been affected by this year’s rise in business rates - in some cases these have risen by 60%.
The Estate responds that it is their job to maximise income for their beneficiaries, mainly the Foundation Schools, Dulwich College, Alleyns and JAGs, but it cannot be in their or their beneficiaries’ interest, to have empty units. Surely some rent is better than no rent and the danger is that too many empty units leads to the gradual downgrading of an area - a self-fulfilling prophecy as less shops mean less people buying, which means less shops.
Whatever leases may or may not say it must be in everyone’s interest to keep the shops trading. If that means rents paid one month in advance instead of three months, or, as in many shopping malls, turnover rents where rental levels are based on the actual shop’s takings, so be it.
More importantly, Dulwich residents must make sure that they use the local shops as much as possible. Yes they may be more expensive sometimes, but they are convenient, and not driving to the supermarket of DIY store helps the environment.
If the shops are not used, they will close. Some can still remember the time, not so long ago, when the Village had a butcher and a vegetable and fruit shop, do we want to be left just with estate agents and a garage?