Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 31 August 2014

Shop to close over rent row

Three jobs axed as cash-squeezed retailer blames landlord

A shoe retailer on Belfast’s Lisburn Road has claimed a landlord’s failure to negotiate on rent has led him to decide to close with the loss of three jobs.

Gavin Dunlop of Moda said he had traded for 11 years but could no longer afford to pay rent at the level of £30,000 per year required by the owner of the shop.

The shop, which sells international brands, is due to shut on October 31. Sister shops in Newtownards and Ballymena — as well as concessions in Menary’s stores in Lisburn and Bangor — are to stay open.

Customers were being handed a flyer which states: “Due to the fact that our landlord refuses to negotiate on our rent, we sadly have no choice but to close this branch of Moda.”

Mr Dunlop said custom on the south Belfast road — which developed a niche for independent retailers selling exclusive labels — had been diminished by the opening of Victoria Square Shopping Centre in the city centre in 2008, prompting him to adapt his business.

He said his landlord, Douglas Huston Estate Agents, should adopt the same practical approach and negotiate.

“I have had to completely change my pricing structure and drop an awful lot of brands,” Mr Dunlop said.

“I travel to Spain and I now go to factories, sourcing my handbags and shoes directly.

“I have had to restructure my whole business because the prices we had six or seven years ago, we can no longer charge.”

Mr Dunlop said he had commissioned a valuation of the shop’s rental value, and was told its rent should be set at around £14,000 per year given the size of the shop and the present economic climate.

The businessman said that the landlord had offered a rent reduction to £25,000 per year which Mr Dunlop said was not enough.

Mr Dunlop, who has also taken to Twitter to express his annoyance, said his landlords in Newtownards and Ballymena had agreed to a rent reduction.

“Everybody else is happy to work with me and know I work so hard on trying to keep my business going,” he said.

Gareth Gibson of estate agent Douglas Huston said he could not comment, and that the matter was being handled by his solicitors, who were not available for comment.

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