'Nobody wants to come here anymore' - shoppers avoid 'derelict' high street, say traders (From Borehamwood Times)
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Traders struggling to make ends meet in Shenley Road
Shopkeepers say Borehamwood's “ghost town” high street is a far cry from the bustling community hub it once was.
Back in the day, Shenley Road used to house a butcher, a linen shop and even a vintage record store.
But today, 17 shops lie deserted. The only signs this street was ever vibrant are the abandoned filing cabinets and photocopiers that owners left behind when they closed down.
Crystal Moons, in Drayton Road, just off the high street, was the latest shop to hang up the ‘closing down’ sign in November.
Dilip Mithani, who owns pram specialists Kindercare, remembers the high street being “full of life” when he first opened in 1991.
He added: “There is none of that anymore. Business is poor and it is a sad state of affairs. Independent shops like mine are struggling big time but there is nothing we can do about it. I fear for my business every day.
“Just the other day I was thinking about moving somewhere else because I am just not making money anymore.
“This place used to have a record shop, a butchers, a little curtain shop – but they have all been forced out because there is no money in Borehamwood. Nobody likes coming here. What can we do?
“In 21 years I have seen too many changes here for my liking.”
Mr Mithani believes the problem began when business rates began to skyrocket four years ago – he is now paying more than 35 per cent than he was in 2008.
Julia Holden, who works in the Wool Shop and lives in Drayton Road, believes the problem could be solved if the council offered traders incentives to stay.
The 66-year-old, who has lived in the area for more than 20 years, said: “There is nothing keeping traders here anymore and it is getting out of hand.
“We should be encouraging people to visit us but instead people are just turning away from us. There are rarely people walking in to the shops.
“When I first moved in it was a lovely little village and you really felt part of something, but now it is just a monster town - a ghost town.”
The area closest to the station alone has 11 empty shops, and traders claim many avoid visiting that “derelict” stretch of road.
Stephanie Gloster, who works at a shop in Shenley Road, said: “It makes the high street look very messy and untidy. Nobody wants to come here anymore.
“It looks really gloomy. The top end of the high street really struggles because everyone thinks all the shops here are closed.
“We do not have a lot of footfall here and it would be nice to see some new faces in the shop.
“Even though we have three hours' free parking up by the boulevard, nobody ever comes to the high street.”
But while traders suffer, charity shops are flourishing, with more people choosing to shop in cheaper stores in the tough economic climate.
Terri Forster, assistant manager of Cherry Lodge, said: “We have been doing really well – a lot of people in the community come down to support us which is great.
“I would say we have around 50 to 100 people in every day, there is certainly no lack of customers around here.
“What is happening to the high street is such a shame though – it really is a ghost town.”
The Borehamwood and Elstree Times is awaiting comment from Hertsmere Borough Council.