“We opened with high expectations”

A HARROGATE businesswoman has spoken of the difficulties facing independent traders in the town, after her store was forced to close its doors.

Elizabeth Maskell, of Country Home Store at Station Square, said large overheads, the slowing down of spending in the current climate and restrictive council planning policies had all contributed to the shop’s failure.

“As a new, independent business we found that the overheads in Harrogate were too much for the business,” she said.

“The store opened in Harrogate with high expectations but the slowing down of customer spending in Harrogate forced us to take some harsh decsions.

“We found that less spending generally was taking place by Harrogate residents in the town and that tourists and day shoppers simply were not spending in the shops.

“This is a problem when Harrogate seems deserted by its residents during school holidays and the high streets then depend upon those with very little spending power.”

She said the cafe, which opened in September 2010, was doing very well, with customers praising the menu, quality and service, but that the retail side of the business had to improve in order for it to continue.

“As we were not permitted to extend the cafe to the ground floor due to Harrogate Borough Council’s planning policies, we decided to close,” she said.

“Times are extremely difficult for the independent trader and especially for those who have recently started up.

“Very little support is available although it is widely advertised and I know that even some of the more established retailers are finding it difficult at the moment.

“My concern for somewhere like Harrogate is that it will simply become the same as every high street with chain shops, charity outlets and coffee houses.”

Mrs Maskell said the decision to close had been made “with much sadness” but that she wanted to thank all the store’s loyal and regular customers “who came to the shop and the cafe and never once asked for discount.”