Shops on Sutton High Street ask for help
Businesses in Sutton High Street are calling for more to be done to help those struggling, and for more empty shops to be brought back into use.
A survey of the High Street has shown it is dominated by empty premises, banks and phone shops.
Of the 156 units on the high street, 13 are empty, 18 are banks and 10 are phone shops.
Although Sutton fairs slightly better than the national average, with one in twelve empty shops compared to one in ten nationally according to the British Retail Consortium, three of its landmark stores are in trouble.
Camera shop Jessops closed its doors for the final time last week about the same time HMV and Blockbusters went into administration.
Two businessmen on the high street, two of only a handful of independent shops, said more needs to be done to help businesses.
Nick Shah, who runs Gallery Gifts, said: "Things are getting a little bit better, but customer spending power is the lowest it has been and the business rates we pay here are crippling."
Jerry Cheshire, owner of Surrey Beds, agreed. He said: "If I could get out of my five year lease now I would. I'm not losing money, and we are up on this time last year, but I would relocate if I had the chance."
Mr Cheshire who has been in business 13 years, said the council should penalise landlords whose shops are empty.
Councillor Jayne McCoy, the councils business spokeswoman, said: "The decisions on this (penalising landlords) sits entirely with central government legislation. We would like to see Government introduce disincentives to businesses leaving properties empty."
"When we look at the number of empty shops it has shown a level of resilience that not only rivals other areas but also falls well below the national average."
Paul Cawthorne, from Sutton Chamber of Commerce, said empty shops should be seen as opportunities for new businesses.
He said: "I'm very positive about Sutton's future. We had two major developments announced last year. The economy is starting to pick up and Sutton is an excellent position and we are hoping to attract more boutique-style shops and independent specialist shops."