Independent retailers in Edinburgh have expressed concerns that an increase in parking costs and “obscene” hikes in business rates have created “an inhospitable environment for local shoppers”.
As the Edinburgh Fringe Festival on 2-26 August kicks off this weekend, independent retailers have hit out at the myriad of problems impacting trade in the Scottish capital.
“April, May, June are usually my biggest months, but April was 64% down on [sales] forecast, and more than 50% down on last year,” said Sarah Connelly, owner of independent lingerie retailer Odyssey Boutique. “This year, some months have been down by 60% on forecast. It’s been pretty devastating.”
She added: “You’re lucky if you see people in [independent fashion shops]. In the West End, parking is £4.10 an hour, which is expensive. People are harassed and are rushing trying to get out of the door so that they won’t get a ticket.”
Holly Mitchell, owner of womenswear independent Totty Rocks, agreed: “It’s getting harder to have a smaller independent business in Edinburgh. Parking costs have gone up about three times in the past six months and they’ve got a rule in Edinburgh: if you stop between 4.30pm and 6.30pm, you get an instant ticket. It makes it an inhospitable environment for shoppers.”
Rachel Snedden, owner of bridal boutique Rachel Scott Couture, added: “It discourages shoppers from staying to browse, which is what so many fashion independents rely on.”
Snedden said that following the rating revaluation in 2017, not only did the rateable value of her property increase, but it also took her over the threshold for qualifying for small business rate relief. Small businesses with a combined rateable value of £35,000 or less or a rateable value of £18,000 or less on a single premises can apply for assistance from the Scottish government.
In April 2017 her business rates bill doubled overnight.
“It’s my second biggest outgoing, so to have it double was really quite frightening,” said Snedden. “We appealed and won, but it took a year. Meanwhile, I was paying double rates. If you’re a business on the edge, that’s it: game over.”
Mitchell agreed the revaluation has had a devastating impact: “In Scotland there’s small business rates relief, which is great if you’ve got it, [but the business rates increases] caused quite a few people to close.”
The Edinburgh Business Gateway also provides support for small businesses including one to one advisers, digital workshops and supplier development programmes.
Drapers has contacted the City of Edinburgh Council for comment.