Anyone that has visited the store recently will see that the Woolmead development (where our journey began with East St Cycles) has pretty much been entirely reduced to rubble. The site once comprised of a number of retail shops with offices above, a few maisonettes at one end, and we used to see a little bit of business from the office workers over the years.
I’m guessing a number of Farnham’s Town centre businesses benefitted from their presence, particularly during breaks. At one stage there were quite literally hundreds of people working there. The site was sold by our landlords with pre-planning to the Berkeley group who applied for about 40% more apartment space… which they got. Ten large retail shops will be built under these new apartments, and each about 4000 sq ft so roughly 25% more than Hoops. I’m not sure if you’ve heard the news but apparently people have changed the way they shop: not all of them thankfully- we’ve been lucky to hold onto some of these good few. These new shops though, I’m not sure how easy they’ll rent. Farnham Town population is about 4000 and is surrounded by 12 villages where the remaining 33000 or so live. This means that many people drive into the town centre instead of using our network of amazing cycle lanes ( just kidding you there, like most of Britain it’s virtually non existent!). Anyhow we do have a traffic problem and a local MP that has acknowledged this but no news so far on improving the situation. Being a bicycle shop owner that regularly commutes to work I can help with solutions to the congestion, obviously this may require us to up our game and make multi million pound donations to political parties and of course engage a lobbying team at great expense to engage the powers that be and talk of job creation etc… just like the car and oil industry. I was hoping not to go into mini rant mode and I’m failing.
Anyhow I’d like to think we could pick up one of these shops at a reasonable rent but this might just be me in La La land, It’s nice here mind. You’ll have heard in the media that a lot of the large failing High St chains have complained about the disproportionate amount a retail business pays in business rates vs online stores. Well believe it or not we need to sell 100k of goods to generate enough profit to pay ours, we used to own a warehouse around the corner from the shop in Riverside business park and it wasn’t much smaller than Hoops and we would only need to sell 20k to cover the rates in this location. Here’s the crazy thing, retailers pay 25% of all business rates even though the gross value-added is 10% according to the ONS, basically an easy target for the last few Governments. Anyhow you didn’t come here for politics and my first bike shop boss back in 1989 said “Gary, we don’t talk about religion and we don’t talk politics in the shop”. In a nutshell a big shop with great displays with input from our suppliers could provide the experiential experience the experts tell us retail needs to survive, keep your fingers crossed for us but for now we are happy sharing our space with East St Cycles.
We are excited for the season ahead, we have added some new brands and products to the store and really looking forward to this Year!