Butchered by business rates: One of Camden High Street’s last independent shops to close
Miguel Martin is to close meat shop in Camden Town after 25 years in business
09 March, 2017 — By William McLennan
ONE of the few remaining independent traders in Camden High Street will be shutting up shop after more than two decades due to “astronomical rent” and looming increases in business rates.
Miguel Martin, who has run Martin’s Butchers for 25 years, said that the high street has changed beyond recognition in his time, with big chains pushing out smaller businesses.
The 65-year-old said: “The rent is astronomical and then we found out the rates are going to go up, by as much as double for central London. We are in NW1, so we are scared. We don’t want to go, but there comes a time when you have to be sensible and say you can’t pay it. It’s sad that it’s coming to the end, but such is life.”
Government changes to business rates are expected to result in an average rise of 40 per cent in Camden, which is among the worst hit by an increase coming into effect next month.
Mr Martin, who moved from Malaga, Spain, in the 1970s, worked at Corrigans butchers, in Camden Road, before taking over the business at 177 Camden High Street in the early-90s.
“When I started there were two fishmongers, and there must have been about eight or 10 butchers in Camden,” he said. “They’re all gone. We are the last one left and there are no fishmongers. There’s nothing really for the local people. It’s all sandwich bars, betting shops or telephone shops.”
Ed Miliband visits the shop during his time as Labour leader, promising to freeze business rates
Mr Martin, whose grandfather and father were both butchers, said his was a “dying trade” as younger people bought from supermarkets, and chain stores pushed up rents.
He will continue to supply business – including Inverness Street restaurants and Camden Lock food stalls – but will no longer be able to serve walk-in customers.
The Book Warehouse, while technically a chain with six stores across London, is one of the smaller retailers to survive in Camden High Street. Managing director James Malin said: “Everyone knows that high street retail isn’t easy and increasingly gets harder. We don’t get much help. We have been trading for 28 years and we want to keep trading, but they are not making it easy for us. It’s just a constant squeeze.”
Mr Malin said that rising rent and rates had combined with the “onslaught on the internet”, adding: “People on the high street will walk in and say: ‘We don’t want you to close.’ Meanwhile, they’ll still buy off the internet.”
Simon Pitkeathley, chief executive of business group Camden Town Unlimited, said that people could help shape the high street by shopping at independent businesses.
“If you want to keep local stuff, you have got to use it,” he said. “But the problem is bigger, it’s to do with land values in this country.”
He added: “It’s going to be very sad to see Miguel go, not least because he always does me a good deal on his steaks. Those are the sort of shops you’d hope to keep but they are facing some really quite eye-watering increases in rent and rates. Rents in Camden High Street are extraordinary and that’s what drives up business rates.”
Councillor Theo Blackwell, who is in charge of finance, technology and growth at the Town Hall, said: “The council has recently put conditions on developers to provide workspace at affordable rents in developments like in West End Lane and to keep jewellers’ workshops in Hatton Gardens.”
He added: “Sadly, our power to cut business rates is extremely limited as money we don’t collect in taxes means less money for local public services, and rents are driven by central London market forces.”