An announcement that the Coln Gallery would close later this year ‘due to high business rates and rents’ saw a call to action from readers to support Chichester’s high street.
Chichester District Council has responded to concerns with figures showing the city is doing ‘comparatively better’ than other parts of the South East.
READ MORE: ‘We are working to keep Chichester’s high street buoyant’ – district council responds to retail concerns
The owner of the Coln Gallery, Bill Banbury, had said the rise in internet shopping had seen sales go down, as rents had gone up.
Readers commenting on the article lamented the loss of a ‘special’ shop that added character to the city centre.
Elizabeth Lowe wrote: “This is a wonderful shop - an iconic part of North Street! It must be saved.
“Chichester needs to bring down its business rates otherwise more shops will close. We have lost so many in the last couple of years, something needs to be done before we lose any more.”
Jeanne-Marie Marshall agreed: “I will be forced to go online to get my art supplies a catalogue does not give you the feel of the brushes, the quality of the canvases or drawing paper. That shop is a little Aladdin’s cave. Quel dommage.”
Read more: What is being done to support the city’s high street and give relief on business rates?
Adrian Marden said he did not dispute that rent and rates were high in Chichester, but that had always been the case.
He said: “Most rents are fixed for around five years at a time and business rate increases are restricted.
“So this is not the real reason businesses close - it is simply a reduction in customers. There are lots of reasons for this - from high parking charges to the assumption that a physical shop is more expensive than a virtual one.
“People do not shop the way they used to. Independents suffer because chains (and Amazon) do such a good job convincing people they are cheaper - when this is most certainly not always the case.”
Chichester BID chairman Colin Hicks said: “We are saddened to hear about the forthcoming closure of The Coln Gallery – this independent shop has been a much-loved fixture on the high street for over 15 years.
“We are continuing to work with city centre businesses to support them through these challenging times and have made up-to-date information available to all businesses concerning help with their business rates.”
See other retail news: Chichester Co-op store to offer 16 jobs
Chichester District Council has said 34 of the 40 stores that opened within the BID area last year were independents.