Landlords need to show flexability
LANDLORDS in areas including the Lisburn Road need to be flexible with rental agreements if small businesses are to survive, it has been stated.
The comments come after the South Belfast News recently reported how beleaguered traders are already facing crippling rates bills that are forcing stores to pull down the shutters permanently.
Furniture store Beaufort Interiors recently closed their South Belfast branch after 10 years, with high rates cited as part of the reason for the mover and the ongoing transformation of the once-vibrant Lisburn Road into a ‘ghost town’.
However, rent costs are also putting the squeeze on traders, with one shop owner describing how landlords in South Belfast are not following the lead of those in other areas where a degree of flexibility has helped businesses weather the storm.
Gavin Dunlop, who owns Moda Shoes on the Lisburn Road said that unless local landlords reconsidered their stance, the slide towards ‘ghost town’ status would continue for the shopping area.
A local councillor has also suggested talks with landlords in a bid to prevent further closures.
“I can speak from personal experience about the difficulty rent costs are proving to business owners in South Belfast,” Mr Dunlop said.
“I own other stores, and for instance, with the one in Newtownards, my landlord there fully understands the realities and offered a 20 per cent rent decrease to take the economic situation into consideration.
“In some cases locally, rent is going up rather than down, however, one or two have the advantage of rent decreases from understanding landlords.
“Yet if we don’t see significant change, the only outcome will be more shops closing down. This recession has been tough on us all and we need everyone to play their part, not just those renting the space for their business.
Balmoral Councillor Máirtín Ó Muilleoir said landlords should be consulted to see how they can help with the revival of thoroughfares such as the Lisburn Road.
“I’m very keen that Belfast City Council look to invite landlords down to City Hall so we can hear the problems faced by both them and those renting shop space,” he said.
“It’s important we include them as we attempt to revive our main streets.”