BELL Court has not lived up to expectations says a tenant who is relocating to neighbouring Leamington.
Farringdon & Forbes owner Jools Cardozo says the shopping centre’s promise to be the ‘premier retail destination’ in Stratford has not materialised.
The run-down square underwent a £30million revamp before re-opening in 2017. It is now home to restaurants, bars and shops, and a cinema.
But according to Bell Court’s website 13 units still stand empty.
Jools, who was the first retailer to move into the revamped square, told the Observer lack of shoppers was the main reason for her move, and a lack of big-name retail brands had not helped.
She said: “Unfortunately what was promised was not delivered that first year. I was the only retailer open for the first year and being on my own with just food and beverage was really tough. The familiar brands they promised when I was looking at the site, like Cath Kidston and Hotel Chocolat, never emerged.
“Having less retailers has a huge impact on smaller independents and the rent is high enough without business rates on top.
“Henley Street is always busy but we’re a bit out of town in a quiet location and there’s no signage around which is a huge issue.”
Jools said Leamington was a better choice for independent shops like hers and looked forward to the move to the town’s Regent Street next month.
The businesswoman, who was not even half-way into her five-year lease, added: “The long and hard truth of it is sometimes you need to sit down and work out whether it’s viable to carry on. There are far too many units empty. Now is the time to move.”
Bell Court’s asset manager Toby Saggers said since the multi-million facelift the number of shoppers had increased ten per cent year-on-year.
He added: “We are naturally disappointed that Farringdon & Forbes is closing its store.
“We have made a significant investment in Bell Court, and are very pleased with the mix of big name brands and independent retailers that we have attracted so far. Our confidence in Stratford-upon-Avon and Bell Court is supported by the significant interest we currently have from some exciting new retailers which we hope to announce very soon.
“We wish Farringdon & Forbes all the best with their next venture.”
Director of the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) Joe Baconnet backed Bell Court in tough trading times.
He said: “The current economic climate for town centres is unprecedented and has affected all sectors, including casual dining operators, ‘traditional’ retailers and a host of other businesses. However, we are seeing new businesses come to town and exploit niches in the market.”