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Charity store takes number to 11 in Bridport
WELDMAR Hospicecare Trust is poised to open its second shop in Bridport – bringing the total charity stores in the town to 11.
However, critics claim ‘enough is enough’ and there is no longer an acceptable balance for shoppers.
Mike Harvey president of Bridport Business said: “If we keep having more and more of them then the whole shopping experience in Bridport is going to be unbalanced.
“If there are so many charity shops then the variety and shopping experience is bound to be diminished.
“Several of them, fine, but 11 it is getting to the point where it is beginning to affect the attractiveness of the town to shoppers.”
Charities also have an advantage because they do not pay business rates and by using volunteers labour costs are much lower, he said.
Mr Harvey said the problem was compounded by the empty property rates rule which means after three months landlords have to pay business rates.
Mr Harvey added: “So the landlord puts one in under a short-term licence because they are exempt. “It will get to a point there is just not enough variety because the charity shops tend to be a little bit ‘samey’.”
There are traders who say that charity shops are better than empty ones – not something Mr Harvey agrees with.
He said: “I don’t agree that it is better have somebody than nobody because empty shops bring down rents because landlords have got to accept a lower bid.”
Martin Bowen-Ashwin of estate agents Chesterton Humberts said the town has been doing well despite the recession.
He said: “Charity shops are better than having an empty shop.
“I remember coming here 20 years ago and Bridport’s town centre had a lot of empty shops, so this is the lesser of two evils.
“They pay the same commercial rents if not the business rates.
“The advantage to the landlord is that charity shops generally speaking are very good tenants because they have money behind them.”
He said generally charity shops were not competing with other businesses like-for-like.
He added: “We do receive ongoing enquiries for shops in Bridport – there are retailers trying to get into the town.
“I agree that the town needs a fair mix and it is the balance that is the problem and maybe we have tipped over that now.”
Ray Goodey of The Red Plum art gallery in South Street said: “I would think that we have enough.
“I get a lot of people in my shop and they say they come here because of all the wonderful independent shops. Well the less and less and less that we have, they won’t bother, that is sadly it.”
The new Weldmar hospice shop in East Street is set to sell larger items such as furniture while the South Street one will remain as it is.
No-one from Weldmar wanted to comment but invited people to go into the shops and see for themselves.