Croydon independent Enter, which sells product from 20 up-and-coming designers, is refusing to pay its full business rate charges on its shop after the local council refused to give it rate relief.
The store in the Centrale Shopping Centre is owned by non-profit organisation Fashion Enter, which supports small fashion firms through training and guidance. Fashion Enter claims it should be entitled to discretionary rate relief of 80% and has only paid 20% of its bill to Croydon council.
The council can award up to 80% discretionary relief on business rates for community and voluntary groups which are not registered charities but whose activities are deemed as charitable. However, it says the Enter shop does not meet the criteria.
Fashion Enter director Jenny Holloway disputes this. “All the money goes to the designers, we don’t make any profit, and we work on minimal salaries and work with the local community.
“You need to have specific expertise and experience in the fashion industry to be able to deliver help and good advice to people who want to get into that area, and that’s what we do.
Fashion Enter also runs a factory for up-and-coming designers in Haringey, north London, as well as a boutique in Barking in Essex and a showroom in Kingston upon Thames in Surrey.
Croydon council said: “The council is prepared to reconsider [its decision] if Fashion Enter can provide evidence that the activities at its retail outlet are wholly or mainly charitable.”
The council also said it had helped Fashion Enter with several initiatives in 2007 and 2008, to which it had contributed more than £28,000.