The future for businesses in Wetherby is uncertain after a mixed 2014, according to local opinion.
With particularly high business rates and rent identified as the main issues affecting small, independent businesses in the town, the forecast for 2015 is not optimistic.
Though in his autumn statement this week the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne spoke of the benefits of links to ‘northern powerhouses’ like Leeds, as well as a review of the ratings system, businesses in Wetherby are not overly confident after a difficult year for many.
However, with Christmas shopping starting in earnest and highlights like the Tour de France giving a much needed boost, there have been positive highlights in 2014.
Vice-chair of Wetherby Business Association Denise Podlewska said: “I am of the opinion from what I hear that businesses are doing reasonably well. I certainly haven’t heard anyone giving me downers, but it can always be improved upon. When you see the empty shops we have, people want to come to Wetherby, they are just waiting to be done up and re-opened.
“I don’t think we have been hit as hard as some other places.”
Like many, including Castlegate Stationers owner Nish Kanabar, Ms Podlewska said business rates and rents are often responsible for closures.
She said: “One of the big problems we have got in Wetherby is that rates are very high. That is one of the reasons we get some businesses that come and go quite quickly.
“I am absolutely certain rates and rent will be the main factors when businesses are struggling. When you look at the amount you have to pay before taking a wage, it is substantial.”
Mr Kanabar added: “Rates and rents are a massive overhead and you have to meet that irrespective of whether you are performing or not - that is money you have got to find and that is where the issue is.
“If you look at Wetherby we have already had two or three casualties this year. The sports shop has gone, and there is a gift and card shop on Church Street that’s going, so despite what the government is saying, it is still tough out there.
“In theory we have seen over the last month Christmas shopping in earnest and this is an important time for businesses. But I think you will find, even in the new year, there might be another one or two casualties, even in the multiple stores.”
Welcome to Wetherby chairman Cindy Bentley said: “We have been doing our best to help the traders and encourage people into the town.
“But we have still got to solve the parking issue.”