Wilmslow "has become unviable for retailers"

IMG_0711 (1)

A long-standing Wilmslow clothes shop has closed its door after trading in the town centre for over 40 years.

Wardrobe, which stocked European menswear, relocated from St Ann's Parade to Alderley Road, in the unit which was previously occupied by the Hoopers' menswear department, in April 2017.

Andrew and Claire O'Grady owned the business for 12 years and rebranded it in the autumn of 2014. However, the business traded in Wilmslow for 43 years, previously under the name of Leonard's, which was founded in 1975.

Speaking about the closure, Andrew and Claire O'Grady said "We are sad to say that our store is now closed. Wilmslow, like many other towns across the country, has become unviable for retailers. Rent, rates, parking charges and poor town planning have all contributed to the painful decision we have been forced to make.

"All we can say is please shop locally. Every single small business relies on your custom. We would like to thank all of our loyal customers, many of whom have become friends, over our 12 years of ownership, and the 43 years the business has been trading in Wilmslow."

If you have any alterations that have not been collected, these are being held for you, contact 07538 336241 to arrange collection/delivery of your items.



Here's what readers have had to say so far. Why not add your thoughts below.

Marc Staples
Thursday 12th July 2018 at 3:57 pm
This whole sorry affair of businesses closing down because of greedy landlords and CE making life as difficult as possible with huge rates and rubbish parking reminds me of a song by the Specials many years ago "you've got me living in a ghost town " or we soon will be.If this carries on we will soon have no shops or high street,every time a business closes it makes the town less attractive to visit.
The towns future is in their hands and once its gone it will never return !
Play the music and a tumbleweed rolls through
John Gibbons
Friday 13th July 2018 at 7:42 am
A shame, but think the criticism is a bit off target. Supermarkets swept away the grocers, greengrocers etc, the Trafford Centre hits the clothing shops, the on-line retailers do cheaper and quicker from your living room. We’ll end up with tiny town centres, restaurants, bars, coffee shops and little else.
James Hanson
Friday 13th July 2018 at 9:39 am
Hello Wilmslow.co.uk-ers

I am a retailer in there centre of our lovely town (a coffee shop) - so hopefully I have some insights

There are a number of challenges for retailers
Out of town shopping
Online shopping
VAT and Tax

Some we can blame on the council - which we all enjoy doing these days
(remember if you don't like them vote them out, or stand yourselves)

Some we can blame on landlords - rents are increasing.
- one shop had its rent increased from £16,000 to £26,500 very recently and closed down because of this.
(ask yourself if you could survive if your mortgage went up that much)

Now at the moment we have over 20 shops closed or about to close
(I have a list if anyone is interested)

On the upside we have had al least 10 new businesses open in Wilmslow this year - which is vey positive

Sadly there are no simple answers

It's hard to survive as an independent business on the high street.

All I can say is "shop local" and "shop independent", if you want your town to thrive.

Rick Andrews
Friday 13th July 2018 at 11:13 am
When will landlords and the council realise that exorbitant charges will eventually cause most businesses to fail. Better to have some rent than no rent? Would be interesting to know which companies own the bulk of the retail premises (hazard a guess on number 1) - they will eventually find that all the retailers have gone and then we will have more premises converted to offices and more parking problems. All the streets within a 1 mile radius of the centre have become a Monday to Friday car park, along with half the pavements. (Surely, a lot of this parking is a traffic obstruction offence and infringes access for pedestrians)
As James has said, we need to use local shops, or they go out of business, and greedy landlords just add to the problem.
Oliver Romain
Saturday 14th July 2018 at 12:05 am
I popped in to browse in this shop a number of times over the years and was met by complete indifference from the staff. The shop was nearly always empty or close to empty. Ignoring customers is unviable in any town. There are plenty of retailers doing a great job in Wilmslow.
Jonathan Follows
Saturday 14th July 2018 at 12:27 pm
Very interesting input from James Hanson, thank you.

As Oliver Romain has posted, it only takes one bad experience to mean that a customer won't go back to a store. I have posted similarly for a different store. I last went to Robert Leonard's in about 1985 and it was fine, but I've had no reason to go back since.

Reducing business rates implies increasing domestic rates or - as most recently - when domestic rates are already increased by the maximum amount allowable, reducing services. Charge stores less but make householders pay for green bins, perhaps?

Local shopping is a nice idea, but only if local shops offer what I want. It's clearly hard to survive as a local independent store, but my needs are mainly better met elsewhere. And I live in the middle of Wilmslow, so "parking" isn't an excuse that applies in my case.

However, all that said, it does generally seem to me that there is a reasonably viable and vibrant retail environment in Wilmslow which continues to attract people.
Nik Eastwood
Saturday 14th July 2018 at 8:15 pm
I dont go to wilmslow any more

I was tired of driving round looking for a space - at various times of day during 9-5, so I went to cheadle hulme instead

also wythenshawe as well now, in fact wythenshawe will be a brilliant place once the A555 is finished, wont be long now.

of course, I could walk to wilmslow, but why should I? its not convenient enough.

footfall will never improve if people cant park, car is king and theres no getting away from that.
Vince Chadwick
Monday 16th July 2018 at 10:52 am
I used to use Leonards and was pleased with the service. Then it closed. I'd no idea it had morphed into a new business called 'Wardrobe'; I thought it had just gone out of business.

Had I known it was still trading but under another name, I'd have continued using it. Is it always a good idea to re-brand?
Jon Armstrong
Monday 16th July 2018 at 5:46 pm
"of course, I could walk to wilmslow, but why should I?"

Off the top of my head:
- it costs nothing
- it helps you stay fit and healthy
- it can actually be quite pleasant
- it stops needlessly consuming fossil fuels
- it reduces pollution
- it reduces wear and tear on your car
- it reduces the rate of accidents
- it stops clogging up the car parks
- it stops clogging up the roads

Like Oliver, I went into Leonard's once many years ago but it seemed old fashioned and not my thing. I hadn't realised until this article Wardrobe was the same business rebranded and not something completely different.

I'm still not sure what "European menswear" is... Their website doesn't work so is no help. My guess is things I'd find a greater selection of at Harvey Nichols or Selfridges...?
Glenn Hudson
Tuesday 17th July 2018 at 11:49 am
I know a close family member of the owner and as a result tried desperately to find something worth buying. It’s a real shame when any enterprise goes under but the fact remains....though you may live in the middle of a wood, if you build a perfect mousetrap, the world will beat a path to your door. The truth is there was insufficient choice, what was in the store was insufficiently appealing and it was all extremely expensive. Nonsense about ‘bespoke European menswear’ needs to be consigned to the same bin as the Alan Partridge, combination blazer badge and tie. A shame but inevitable.
Robert Kemp
Wednesday 18th July 2018 at 9:20 pm
I visited Wetherby in Yorkshire today and it was very busy with lots of shoppers. I was surprised to find that a large well maintained car park in the town centre was totally free.... please note Wilmslow and Cheshire Councils!
Claire O'Grady
Wednesday 18th July 2018 at 9:44 pm
Interesting comments, some well informed, others not so much. Out of interest Glenn Hudson, which close family member do you know?
Laurie Atterbury
Thursday 19th July 2018 at 8:39 am
I agree with Robert’s comments re Wetherby, a good example of what can be achieved with a commercially aware council.
John Harries
Thursday 19th July 2018 at 9:55 am
I purchased many suits, jackets, trousers and shirts from Robert Leonards; it was a really good gents outfitters (I betray myself here, gents outfitters v fashion store...) offering a wide range of 'european' sourced clothing in the medium to higher price ranges. Excellent service from a small knowledable and friendly staff with adequate reserved parking for patrons - and it is probably in excess of 20 years since I last walked through the doors of the 'old' store in St. Annes Parade! It's worth noting there were at least 3 other smaller oufitters plus top of the range Samuel Coopers and Finnigans in the village a little earlier/around the same period.
When the original family management passed to the next generation the store changed, direction and presentation, and went decidedly 'upmarket' and to be even handed, my requirements also changed. I can't comment on what the pheonix Wardrobe offered but my guess is it was still very much upper end and upwardly mobile targetted and thus a limited market - even in Wilmslow.
Wilmslow centre has changed almost beyond recognition compared with the bustling, vibrant 'village' of the 50's-80's of the 20th century but I seem to recall it was always a high range rental area with the Westminster estate owning most of the plum properties but some of the quoted examples of recent increases appear to be insane (unless landlords are looking for tax relief on unoccupied property in order to offset big profits from even higher rental portfolios elsewhere - HMRC not plugging these profiteering loopholes is not the stuff for this forum however).
We have to accept that shopping habits have changed significantly in the past decade and it must be really hard for independant shopowners on the high street these days but I endorse what has already been said on this thread - support what you have, help it work and prosper or lose it - probably forever!
Lorraine Smith
Thursday 19th July 2018 at 11:32 am
It's a shame that yet another retailer has closed and others are going as soon as their leases are up. But CE seems unconcerned. They are happy to approve a LIDL superstore in a residential area that will inevitably challenge garden centres, food outlets in Wilmslow and Handforth and wine merchants.
James Hanson
Thursday 19th July 2018 at 1:05 pm
Just a quick follow up to some of the comments - and in a rare post on wilmslow.co.uk - I am going to stick up for CEC. (a little bit)

Rent is nothing to do with CEC - they have no influence on private landlords.

Rates are another matter - and as we all know they struggle to use there budget to cover all the costs for everything and that we would prefer better care for the elderly - than fill in a few pot holes.

(I know they are famously rubbish inefficient and do not have the best reputation) but still have a lot to things to cover.

Thats why they approve a lot of new builds - expansions etc - because they can charge them rates and therefore get more money

What they can do is look at town centre infrastructure / traffic and parking that has become dangerous ---- after they spend there money on the really important stuff.

I know you all will now say that they are inefficient and probably incompetent

But if we don't like it vote new people in (without blindly following party loyalty) or stand yourselves.

#lovecec (a little bit) #hateincompetence
Vince Fogharty
Friday 20th July 2018 at 8:26 am
As much as I won't ever defend CEC, the comments about them reducing the rates are wrong, the property valuation is set by the VOA and the rates are set each year by central government, CEC or any other council have no input, however that said, CEC's approach to the High St and town centres as a whole is shocking and has been for a while. As a retail and leisure consultant I work with local councils across the UK, and we have one of the worse. Just up the rd in Cheshire West and Chester they have a very pro-active council in terms of small business help and town centre regeneration. But as I say to my clients, the first part of a successful business is it's business plan and ensuring it changes as customers needs change.