Dwindling trade forces town butchers to close

John Sawyer, owner of JBS Family Butchers in Sudbury has had to admit defeat and close the shop. ANL-150307-144352001
John Sawyer, owner of JBS Family Butchers in Sudbury has had to admit defeat and close the shop. ANL-150307-144352001

A butcher who has been forced to shut up shop has warned that as demand falls others will follow unless rates and rents are reduced.

JBS Family Butchers in Sudbury, which hit national headlines last year for a controversial window display, has had to close after suffering from dwindling trade.

Owner John Sawyer had to admit defeat a fortnight ago, his shop in the Borehamgate Precinct, Sudbury, closing its doors on Saturday.

Having been in the town for five years, Mr Sawyer said business had dropped dramatically since January - causing the company to lose money on a weekly basis.

“There’s not enough trade. We have been losing £300-a-week since Christmas,” he said.

He added that trade had been satisfactory last year, when the shop’s traditional stuffed animal display sparked a nationwide debate.

“Last year I didn’t earn but I didn’t lose,” he said. “I will state I don’t want to close but I’m between a rock and a hard place. There’s no indication that it’s turning for the better.”

Mr Sawyer said he was at a loss to the cause of the sudden drop in trade but suggested increasing competition online and in out-of-town retail parks was severely damaging British high streets.

“A lot of people in the town are in trouble. Since I put the [closing down] sign up lots of business owners have spoken to us and told us that they are also in trouble.”

He explained that with the planned closure of the neighbouring bus station and rumours of other shop closures it would make it hard to continue trading.

He pointed towards the number of charity shops in the town which benefit from reduced business rates and often received favourable rental agreements.

“Why don’t they give us reduced business rates or landowners give us reduced rent?

“If they were affordable the shops wouldn’t be empty.

“When we are in a recession reduce the rates and then when business is good put them back up again.”

Mr Sawyer felt town centre trade was struggling across the country.

“There simply hasn’t been enough business,” he said. “I have a friend in Clacton who says it’s the same there.”

Most worrying of all for Mr Sawyer was the lack of trade on the traditional market days.

He said: “Thursdays are no longer like Thursdays anymore. They are just like any other day.

“Market day makes very little difference. There’s too many places to shop. You can shop 24-hours-a-day, seven-days-a-week. Even petrol garages are like mini supermarkets now.

“We have a lovely town centre but everything is moving out. If this continues then people won’t come and visit Sudbury.”

Chris Storey, chairman of Sudbury Chamber of Commerce, expressed his sadness at the business having to close but said as a direct result of high-levels of competition some businesses would always struggle and close.

He highlighted that there were several quality meat suppliers in the town, including the butchers on the market.

He added that if the town was attractive to businesses empty shops would be filled.

“The main thing for Sudbury is to show it is a good place to set up shop,” he said.