Closing Hull city centre store owner hits out - and reveals why Whitefriargate shops are struggling

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 10 Jul 2018

Business rates may not be coming down fast enough to save shops in one of Hull’s best-known streets, it has been claimed.

Kapow Gifts joined the likes of Grainger Games and New Look in announcing it was shutting its doors in Whitefriargate.

A statement from the store has now pointed the finger of blame at business rates, a tax which every shop or business has to pay to the government.

The store owner said although they were reduced for shops in 2017, they are not coming down quickly enough.

A spokesman for Kapow said: “The rates were 10 years out of date, and Whitefriargate is badly overrated, probably from the old lease signed with big chains in the 90s.

Kapow, Whitefriargate

“The rates were dramatically reduced in 2017, but transitional relief means they can only be reduced by 10 per cent.

“That rule is meant for big hikes, so traders don’t get stung with a big increase in the bill that puts them out of business.”

Transitional relief limits how much a business’ rates bill can change each year.

How much a business’ bill can change is based on its value, and whether its bill is increasing or decreasing as a result of the valuation.

An empty shop down Whitefriargate

From 2017 to 2018, businesses with a rateable value of £20,000 or more could see their rates cut by 10 per cent.

That figure will rise to 15 per cent in the 2018/19 year, and 20 per cent the following year, but fears have been raised it may come too late for shops.

Read more: Hull's Debenhams to lose two leading brands as company enters administration

Kapow announced on Facebook on Sunday that it was still open for business for a time, as their massive sale continues.

A previous statement from the popular independent store – known for its unique gifts, clothing and retro film and video game merchandise – said: “It is with great regret and sadness to inform you all that Kapow Gifts is closing down.

“We would like to thank everyone who has supported us up to this point. We are not closing today, but will be very soon.”

The past two decades has seen Whitefriargate go from a thriving retail area into a street peppered with empty shops.

Businesses can apply for small business rate relief if its property rateable value is less than £15,000.

The question remains as to the future of Whitefriargate.

Plans have previously been whispered to install a roof over the street, along with proposals to develop a café culture.

Whitefriargate was also revamped as part of the £25m Hull city centre facelift.

A spokesperson from the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government, said: “High Streets and small businesses are the backbone of our economy - we want to see them thrive now and into the future.

“That’s why we are taking measures to support high streets and reduce the burden of business rates - including introducing over £10 billion worth of business rate support by 2023."

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