It seems the vibrant leafy boutique clad streets of Chiswick motivated ‘residents’ to select this area to ‘reside’ in the first place. Many have been bitterly disappointed by the gradual but consistent decline in the look and feel of the High Road in recent years. The closing of bespoke traders for more charity shops, coffee shops, hairdressers or estate agents seems to have reached a tipping point. A further concern is the proliferation of Voldemort-esque dark vacant shops on the High Rd. The face of Chiswick is changing.
Right now, according to ‘property Link’ from the Estates Gazette, there are 67 commercial properties available for let in Chiswick. This does include some office space but, conversely, on checking the details, it excludes many vacant shops on Chiswick High Road of which there are at least 10. This begs the question, how has this come about? What has happened to retail in W4?
Some are being forced out by hikes in rent and high business rates. Others are finding online shopping and Amazon make it difficult to compete. Perhaps some footfall has moved to Westfield. Or a developer, like Lend Lease, has bought the space and are doing nothing with the shops or the building. Whatever the reason, shops are empty.
So, is there a remedy to the problem? There are various views, however, a consensus seems to prescribe the following:
The first remedial action is literally on our own doorstep. Use local shops whenever practicable.
The second action is to take ownership of the problem. This does not necessarily mean individually setting up your own shop, but it does mean proactively supporting those undertaking similar tasks. For example, the team working to start a Chiswick flower market. You can see our report on the flower market proposal at https://chiswickbuzz.net/blog/talks-of-new-flower-market-coming-back-to-chiswick-high-road/
A third action is to encourage the landlords and freeholders to offer space to Pop Up shops rather than leave them empty. Organisations such as https://www.meanwhilespace.com/ assist small businesses or individuals to move into vacant spaces and set up shop, on the understanding that they will leave within an allotted time. Artists, of course, have long used empty commercial buildings as studios and gallery spaces, but now others are seeing the potential. The uses to which these spaces are put are thrillingly varied.
Finally, while the use of pop-ups is great in principle, it relies on the buy-in of the property freeholder. If this is not forthcoming in the short term, then the only option is a return to market trading. This in turn, will require the support of the council and similar organisations. This brings us full circle to popular support.
For the time being we will continue to monitor activity on the High Road and on social media. Watch for updates on Chiswickbuzz, learn more and get involved.