The rents being paid by chain store operators for flagship premises in London's Covent Garden have forced the last family-owned store on Long Acre, in the heart of Covent Garden, to close.
Mike Jones, a partner at Deloitte, property advisers to the landlords, said “Obviously rents in Covent Garden are going up but that’s not the Mercers’ Company fault, it’s because too many retailers want to be in the part of London.”
Harry Ganz, now 61, opened the Garden Pharmacy thirty years ago. But a rent review this year would have increased his rent to £600,000 from the £410,000 at present. That would have required Harry and his wife Connie to make £16,000 profit every week from the shop, before they made a penny for themselves.
Instead the Ganz's decided to surrender their lease for a "significant sum" back to the Mercers Company, who have prospective tenants waiting for property.
The Mercers' Covent Garden portfolio comprises six blocks of property on the north side of Long Acre. It is the most significant part of the Company’s holdings, and was left to the Company in the 16th Century by Lady Joan Bradbury. The area includes shops, cultural spaces, offices and residential flats.
The Company has recently completed a joint venture with Shaftesbury plc to redevelop the westernmost block at the junction of Long Acre and St Martin’s Lane. This mixed use development is centred on a newly created public space, St Martin’s Courtyard, which is surrounded by shops and restaurants.
Harry Ganz said: “When we started here in 1984 there were clothes shops, three coffee bars and the Covent Garden General Store. Now every single one is a chain store.”
The family is not quitting though; they opened their online pharmacy www.garden.co.uk in 1993 well before any other Health & Beauty website.
The website was also the first to showcase all the premium cosmetics and brands online and as founder members of the Cosmetic & pefumery Retailers Association, have always advocated controlled internet retailing in the beauty industry.
Running the website requires plenty of attention, the online world is faster paced and more competitve than even Covent Garden. The family compete on stocking a vast range to please their particular clientele and touches like free gift wrap on mail order presents.