Crouch End awaiting delivery – town centre retail survey December 2019

The survey is one of our ongoing exercises, this time detailing the end-December 2019 composition of the Crouch End contiguous shopping centre – that is to say all 301 retail units comprising some 40,000 square metres of floorspace (plus 27 premises in non-retail use, mostly office space). Previous reports can be found at: 2018, 2017 and 2016.

This year’s headline? Well, amid repeated media reports on High Street decline across the UK, and the obvious and continuing growth of online retail, alas Crouch End did not escape.


In Numbers

Last year we noted the vacancy rate was still low, but suggested the outlook was ‘choppy’. It was. Two figures tell the story: Firstly, the number of vacant retail units rose to 24 – last year it was 11 (the year before, 12). A vacancy rate of 8% and climbing. Secondly, the rate of change, the ‘churn’ of shops, also rose: In 2018, 23 businesses/properties changed hands, but in 2019 there were 38 changes (one eighth of the total units). After a few years of little change in trend the sudden lurch downwards is a stark display of difficult trading conditions.

2019 also saw a significant drop in the numbers of chain shops – now a majority of overall closures: the number of multiples in Crouch End fell by 13.4% compared to a 2.9% drop in independent traders. The assumption that independent retailers having things harder is no longer true. The loss of chains is a blow, they supply anchor stores that improve overall visitor numbers – but are also used as a benchmark for town centre ranking exercises.

Last year our headline noted that the long Crouch End café and restaurant boom had stalled, with zero growth over the year. In 2019 the trend was unmistakeable: the food and beverage sector contracted by 9% to 68 outlets. This is the first contraction in years. As the sector has provided much in the way of a local USP, we should perhaps be concerned. Footfall is obviously down, with a suggestion that this is linked to the growth of food delivery operations. Judging by the numbers of delivery mopeds lining the main roads we suspect it is.

The contraction of comparison shopping steadily continues, such use now down to 17% of total floorspace. In the primary district centre (essentially the Broadway plus Tottenham Lane) over one quarter of comparison outlets are now charity shops – a classic sign of retail stress. Crouch End is no longer a destination for comparison type shopping, though to be truthful it hasn’t been for some time. Still, we understand the future is in services – and thankfully service-type operations classed under ‘hair & beauty’, and indeed estate agents for example, are relatively unchanged. Though noticeably, no growth was recorded.

Overall, the ‘A1’ use category (ie. convenience plus comparison retail) now describes 49% of shops in the primary area. This is considerably fewer than the Haringey Local Plan policy objective of a minimum 65% A1 – a policy which, if enforced, would presumably drive the vacancy rate to a good deal higher than the current 8%. So, while we should be grateful to Haringey for turning a blind eye to ‘change-of-use’ – is there a new lower limit for retail below which the town centre loses its purpose?


Comings and Goings

2019 began poorly with the loss of the Earl Haig Hall, not only a pub but for 90 years a valuable community space (a nursery will open in the building this March). Indeed, the most difficult period of the year was the first quarter, and with news of the impending closure of Roxanne and Scarecrow it may be a similar gloomy start to 2020. Other sad losses included some very long-standing Crouch End fixtures such as Thomerson’s after 57 years of trading, and Floral Hall Antiques, also decades in the same family.

Openings: we welcomed Lyon’s, Supplant, Clock N8, Crouch End Hardware, Greek Kitchen, La Gelatiera, Gel Nail Spa, Caffeinate N8, Robert Harrison Property, Lydia Brasserie, Storksen, the Mahala pop-up, Crouch End Greens, Jaki, and in December, Giovanni’s Room. Oliver Bonas moved along a bit, as did Margot London.

The goodbye list is a tad longer. Farewell to: Middeys (again, oh, and Pera Kitchen… we’re losing track), the Earl Haig pub, Santander, Starbucks, Carphone Warehouse, Evans Cycles, Edith’s House, the Broadway Oddbins, Subway, Honeycomb, and Thomersons. Not to mention Tailor at the Tannery, Heirloom, Here, Martini, CITA, Salon Seventy Two, Myspace, Floral Hall Antiques, Sorbet, Montmartre Brasserie, Jerkmaica, Telepizza (…short lived), ProjectMe, Central Park, Bespoke Dry Cleaners, Litchfields, the Ply Gallery and various short-term enterprises at HTH.

There are many rumours of changes to come of course, not least the possibility of a Holland & Barrett and the possible redevelopment of the Crouch Hill Oddbins site, but we’ll wait for confirmation.

Lastly, we are monitoring the take up of the line of new units taking shape alongside the cinemas of Tottenham Lane. These are relatively larger than the Victorian units of Topsfield Parade, and we have concerns whether a further spread of Crouch End’s shopping centre is viable.

Map key: the blues are comparison & convenience retail, yellow food & beverage, browns, green & orange other services.


Outlook

At which point in the blog we shrug off the gloomy figures, ignore the blatant trend towards our online future, and search for positive news. High Street resilience, as often reported, can be enhanced by a flexible and visitor-centred offer (or, a Mars bar ‘work rest and play’ mix as reported in today’s media – alas, we are rather lacking in the ‘work’ department). We certainly need people to come for a variety of reasons, and hang-around once they do.

Thankfully, as mentioned in previous blogs, the prospects for Crouch End are substantially improved by the two major projects coming forward: the Hornsey Town Hall development and the TfL/Haringey ‘Liveable Crouch End’ project, –

Hornsey Town Hall, if successful, will deliver a bona fide heritage visitor attraction in 2021 complete with arts venue and hotel, which, if we get it right, should benefit the whole town centre. As we know, once visitors arrive in Crouch End they find it very difficult to leave.

As complement, the Liveable Neighbourhood thing promises, essentially, a high street makeover by 2022-23. Key objectives for the project (and for CENF) are to improve urban realm infrastructure, whether wider and improved pavements, better crossings, new public spaces, reduced traffic or greening. Undoubtedly any scheme which aims to reduce car travel will face opposition, but if we’re learning anything at the moment it is this: the local economy is in decline and the status quo is not sustainable. The creation of a more liveable, beautiful, less shabby, more desirable town centre to visit has to be part of the answer. Even if a few parking spaces are lost along the way. The project team will be required to listen carefully to the traders, not least about servicing requirements and the impact of changes such as CPZ hours (etc.) – and hopefully everyone will see the potential. Stay tuned.

6 Comments

  1. Mark Afford Author

    For those who are following these things, news reaches us that the Hornsey Town Hall development is largely on track, currently running with a two month delay (the schedule was affected by additional finds of asbestos). Sales are slow, as across London, but otherwise as expected.

    Taken together with the Liveable Crouch End public realm changes, 2022 is looking pretty momentous – the culmination of 10s of £millions of local investment.

    Reply
  2. Mark Afford Author

    A question everyone wants answering is ‘how will the Liveable Crouch End road changes affect the local economy?’

    Well, maybe it comes down to this:
    At the moment we’re told that 14% of shoppers arrive by car, and if we get the most radical interventions we may face losing a third of the parking space available to shoppers in the town centre (I’m guessing). i.e. takings may therefore be 5% down overall.

    But, as a result of proposed improvements to the town centre environment, non-car visitors (86% of the total) will be up and dwell time increased.

    Therefore (keep up at the back), if the changes increase the walking group by at least 7%, then the overall figures will be neutral. An 8% or more increase in walk/bus visitors, and we’re ahead.

    Question is, what has happened elsewhere? Have Walthamstow or Palmers Green seen such an increase?

    (PS. Please don’t say ‘an increase in cyclists will make up for it’. That just shows you’re innumerate).

    Reply
  3. Adrian Essex

    From Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/groups/2242256010/permalink/10157686870016011/?comment_id=10157687125721011 Andrew Georgiou The Crouch End Traders association feel that the Implications of closing down The Broadway to through traffic would have a devastating and irreversible impact on Crouch End High Street resulting in rows of empty shops. We are launching a campaign on Monday to try and encourage as many people as possible to fill out the latest Liveable Crouch End questionnaire as the majority of locals don’t even know about it !

    Reply
  4. Mark Afford Author

    A view often expressed. But is it true? Do we believe Crouch End town centre is somehow economically dependent on through traffic? (Don’t we already have a row of empty shops?).

    Isn’t the high street in crisis now, searching for solutions? With the removal of vehicles and the construction of pedestrian-centred infrastructure one of the most cited?

    The point remains: what does the evidence show?

    Reply
  5. Kathy Frain

    Relocate the Cranford Way Industrial Estate to stop the polluting HGV`s and Cement Mixers coming up Tottenham Lane with their toxic fumes into Crouch End.
    They are damaging our health and the local environment.

    Reply
  6. Mark Afford Author

    January’s figures don’t look good. Another 5 shops appear to have closed over the month (Black Katz, Scarecrow, Middle Lane mini-mart, Hot Pepper Jelly (possibly), and Roxanne (‘last few days’). 3 are in the primary area, and the roll call includes convenience, comparison, service, and food & beverage.

    The number of empty shops stands at 29 – 9.6% of units. 13 months ago the rate was 3.3%.

    Reply

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