Archway shops forced to close in ‘ghost town’
Independent traders blame drop in footfall on recent changes to the traffic system at Archway
19 January, 2018 — By Samantha Booth
Rose and Geoffrey Niblett of Junction Pets say fewer people stop on the road: ‘We are now taking less money than we did 11 years ago’
THREE independent shops in Archway, including a 100-year-old bakery, are planning to close amid concerns the area is becoming a “ghost town”.
Stagnells Bakery, TVR Electrics and Smart Wear clothing store, all within 100 yards of each other in Junction Road, say a drop in footfall has impacted their income in the past year and their premises are currently on the market.
Geoffrey Niblett, from Junction Pets, has also seen a decline and said since one lane of the Archway gyratory had been made into a public space and the direction on a one-way through-road changed, fewer shoppers appear to stop on the road.
He also said their rent has increased since opening 12 years ago.
“We are trying to make money, we are trying to keep going,” said 73-year-old Mr Niblett, who runs the pet shop with his wife Rose and their son and daughter-in-law. “It’s a bit of everything but since they started doing the junction work there has definitely been an impact around here. It’s changed the traffic flow.
“The last two to three years business has got worse and worse and worse. We are now taking less money than we did 11 years ago. It seems everything on the high street is suffering other than charity shops.”
Nearby Stagnells Bakery was opened by Mr Stagnell in 1911 on Junction Road. Helen Antonio, 49, took over seven years ago – but now wants to shut up shop. “I’ve had to cut people’s hours, I’m doing all of the work, cooking, baking,” Ms Antonio said.
“We get local people shopping here but the main trade is people passing by so if people are not coming down this way and if they cannot park, then they are going to go to a supermarket, that’s what’s happening I think.
“It’s a ghost town – what’s happened to Junction Road? Small businesses are the best. Before you know it, there will be none left.”
Ms Antonio said she suggested to the council introducing half an hour free parking, to encourage shoppers to spend locally, and thinks the council removing coin parking metres has had a detrimental affect.
In 2016, Transport for London (TfL) began work to redesign the gyratory, closing off the road between Highgate Hill and Holloway Road, creating a new public space. They also reversed the one-way system on MacDonald Road and Vorley Road, which connected Highgate Hill to Junction Road.
Smart Wear is holding a closing down sale after 30 years and their store is for lease. An owner, who wished not to be named, said: “We’ve seen massive changes in the area, traffic flow has lessened. It’s been a heart-wrenching decision, but if we are losing money, we cannot stay.”
The owner also cited online shopping having a dramatic impact on clothing sales, a trend seen nationwide on high streets.
TVR Electrics, which opened in 1976, is also up for lease. The 52-year-old owner, who wished to remain anonymous, took over the business from his father seven years ago.
Smart Wear clothing store
He said his business rates are higher than any many others nearby, more customers have been going to larger shops and parking has become too expensive.
“It’s a family reason I’ve been here for,” he said. “If it was financially viable I would stay – it’s been a difficult decision as it’s been a way of life.”
Labour councillor Claudia Webbe, the Town Hall’s cabinet member for environment and transport, said the new road layout “restores” the Archway town centre and the council is working with businesses to help them adapt.
She said: “The [gyratory] project was the result of extensive consultation with residents and local business owners, and the feedback we are getting from residents now is largely positive, with more people using the area – something that is likely to continue to increase over time.
“We recognise this is a major change and we are closely monitoring the impact of the changes including in relation to businesses, but in the long term we expect most will adapt positively to the changes.”
Ben Plowden, director of project and programme sponsorship at TfL, said: “The changes to the road network have made it safer and less intimidating and are helping to draw new visitors to the area by encouraging more people to travel to and through on foot, bike or bus.”