This week our beloved fabric shop, Cutting Edge Fabrics, closed after fifteen years of successful trading in Basingstoke.
Cutting Edge Fabrics has been a mainstay of the Brighton Hill shopping centre in Basingstoke since 2007. It is a thriving business with a far-ranging customer base. So you might be wondering why they had to close? The answer is simple: their lease came up for renewal, and the lease holders have increased the rent – making it too expensive to run the store any more. Also, the business owners are in their seventies, and understandably want to avoid signing another fifteen-year contract.
It is a massive blow to the people of Basingstoke and the surrounding areas, because people come from all over the county to shop there, as they were the best and only haberdashery shop around for miles. In July 2019 we lost Fabric Land in Festival Place for similar reasons.
Unfortunately, they have yet to find alternative premises anywhere in the town. They were hoping to move to the town centre, but even the top of the town is too costly. What I cannot understand is why these management companies prefer to have large empty units rather than busy shopping centres. Surely, it is better to have consumers flooding into commercial centres rather than going online or elsewhere?
As it stands, now that Cutting Edge Fabrics has closed our nearest stores are in Newbury and Waterlooville – which are hardly on our doorstep! Both destinations are a bit far to go for a replacement zip or button.
Plus, as a textile enthusiast I understand the importance of accurate colour matching. The closure of the store is a huge disappointment, because the textile trade has always been a tactile business. Fabric needs to be touched and felt because it is an intimate experience. Fabrics clothe us and help us present ourselves to the world. We can control our image via the clothes we wear. The loss of the store means that this task is inevitably much harder.
With the current cost of living crisis it is vital that we can prolong the life of our curtains, clothes, and furniture. Making do and mending may come back into fashion as we are all forced to economise.
Around forty years ago, Basingstoke town centre was a hub for small businesses – with over two hundred stores at the top of the town. Now there’s just twenty. Why are costs so prohibitive that even a profitable business like Cutting Edge Fabrics is unable to afford to rent it?
If I were in government, I would enable small businesses to flourish in our town centres by introducing flexible terms and shorter leases of five years. This would give them the flexibility they need, whilst also encouraging shoppers back into our commercial centres. This is preferable to the sea of empty units we currently see around the country – or the endless chains and charity shops. If nothing is done to curb this, then we are going to see the steady decline of our high street which will be a huge loss to us all.