Businessman calls for review of leases as he prepares to close shop in Huntingdon

CLOSING: Tim and Mandy Lockey at Urban Country which is closing down

CLOSING: Tim and Mandy Lockey at Urban Country which is closing down - Credit: Archant

A businessman is calling for a review of the way shop leases operate after deciding to close his bag and toy outlet in Huntingdon.

Tim Lockey, of Urban Country, said he had been facing a commitment to a 10-year lease on the struggling shop in Chequers Court if he wanted to stay open and could not take the risk.

“If people want to retain the independent retailers something is going to have to be done about it nationally,” he said. “In Europe you see a lot more independent businesses because you can just say ‘I’m up to date with the rent’ and hand the keys back.”

Mr Lockey called for more flexibility in leases and rents so that businesses had the chance to flourish.

He said: “It has cost a lot of money and hard work in an effort to try to get it to work.

“There are some really nice people in Huntingdon who would come in for a chat who we will miss.”

The final date of business has not been confirmed but is likely to be in the middle of January and stock is on sale.

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Urban Country, which has been open for just over a year, employed four or five staff but they have already gone.

Mr Lockey, who has years of experience in the retail industry and had luggage outlets in Cambridge and Peterborough, said: “We supplied around 300 shops around the country with Urban Country as a brand and we decided to try a retail outlet.”

They looked for a town in a growing area and chose Huntingdon, having seen a healthy footfall outside the premises, with a view to expanding further.

“The fact that development was happening within the town was a big plus,” Mr Lockey said.

But new shops which were expected to be a draw did not open as early as anticipated and the strong footfall did not translate into sales.

Mr Lockey said Cambridge, Peterborough and Milton Keynes remained key attractions for shoppers, despite problems with parking.

He felt Huntingdon should play to its strengths and emphasise the good general mix of shops and specialist independents - although it could be difficult for a visitor to find where the shops were.