Independent shops are being forced out of the exclusive Wimbledon Village because of soaring rents, business owners have claimed.
The Wimbledon Business Association said independent shops and restaurants were leaving at an alarming rate, with one shop owner even claiming the Village is “dying” due to soaring rents.
It said rents were so high major retailers such as Costa Coffee and the Carphone Warehouse have been forced to leave in recent months, though the council said such units were soon filled.
A council spokesman said rents are being decided by landlords and that despite the complaints, prices in the borough remain lower than the capital’s average.
Mano Sounderojah, who owns Wimbledon Village Newsagent, said his rent has more than doubled from £10,000 per year since he took over the business a decade ago.
He told the Standard: “If you look at the high street here, it’s dying. All of the shops are closing.
“The rent upgrades are so high they can’t afford to pay it. I pay rents of £26,000 per year and as a newsagent we just can’t afford it.
“To pay the rents, wages, electricity and everything, it’s just so difficult. Nobody can afford to stay here anymore.”
Adrian Mills, chairman of the Wimbledon Village Business Association, said: “I’m aware of a number of premises that pay in the region of £200,000 rent and rates.
“Imagine the sleepless nights knowing that your break even point after, stock, staff, utilities etc is over £12,000 a week and you have to achieve that every week before you can even think about making a profit.”
Merton Council has set up a business rate discount scheme so that retailers can apply for relief if struggling with rent.
It also said that many empty units in the area, of which there were seven at the start of the month, are already set for new store openings.
Merton Council Councillor Stephen Alambritis said: “We are a business-like council and recognise that having fewer empty stores than the rest of the country benefits our residents too.
“We want to make Merton a great place for families, and that means doing all we can to help businesses thrive.”