There are 10 estate agents in Barnes, taking up 15 premises, including the former Stanton Scott shop. On the North side of the High Street there are 6 premises in a row of 13 shops – almost 50%.
Some might think we must have reached saturation point surely? How can they survive in these economically tightened times? Recent information from Zoopla allows us to speculate. Last year was not a good year for estate agents yet there were 240 sales in Barnes. The average price of a sale was £957,683; let’s say £1m for simplicity. 240 sales at that price raises a staggering £240 m. Each agent say sells 24 houses and at 2% they make £20,000 per house = £480,000. From this they would need to pay an average rent £30,000 p.a. and rates at about half rent. Also running costs c £500 per month and wages which seem to vary from £20-50,000.p.a. The total (if there were three sales staff in the office, is about £170,000. Whatever the expenditure actually is, there is still a huge amount of profit to be made. And the profit from lettings has not been absorbed in this equation either.
So it would seem that Barnes could accommodate quite a few more estate agents. Another 5 or so. And if the market picks up, maybe another 10. The only thing that stops them is the fact that shops are usually classified as A1 which means they should be selling goods. If the shop is on key shopping frontage then A1 should remain as A1. On secondary frontage there is room for flexibility. Recently the BCA and others vigorously fought the conversion of 49 Church Road into A2, to become a larger office for Chesterton. The first round was won. Chesterton have now appealed and the hearing for this will be in early June. If you are interested in helping to keep no 49 as a shop, read the next blog for details.
The office conversion began a while back in time. There are many offices in ex-shops already such as Octopus in Station Road, Laurent Residential in Church Road, Andersons in 36A High Street and also in 47 and 141 White Hart Lane.
If we want to retain our A1 shops then these planning battles will have to continue, as there are bound to be more applications from agents. Alternatively we could boycott Barnes agents or stop selling our houses altogether!
High Streets sometimes change rapidly, especially in times of economic difficulty. Banks are reluctant to lend to small businesses and yet the start up costs for a burgeoning independent shop are frightening. Under a new lease there would be a deposit, three months rent in advance, refurbishment and sometimes a premium. There are short term licences that can be taken out to make it easier for independents but many of the agents of company landlords do not want to deal with these and consider it more of an achievement (and therefore a feather in their caps) if they sign up with a chain, an estate agent or a large charity, as they are considered “safe”.
2010 seemed to be the lowest spot in Barnes when there were 23 vacant shops. Things aren’t getting much better as there are still 16 vacant shops now. Moreover we have lost useful shops like off-licences, gift shops, a boutique, a gallery, a dvd shop and gained more charity shops and kitchen show rooms, which function a bit like attractive offices. Consider these changes over the next 10 or 25 years or even 50 years? Is Barnes to become a zone of office-shops? Is the high street to become a ghost village? When will the point of no return be reached?