Empty shops and offices in the High Streets, provide a golden opportunity for the entrepreneur to negotiate some once in a lifetime rents.

Buying on-line and out-of-town superstores are undoubtedly popular, but many of the large retailers are seeing a return to traditional shopping as consumers want the convenience of their local shops. This is well illustrated by the growth of high street outlets by the big name supermarkets.

New opportunities

However, the vacant properties that are still to be found in most high streets, provide the canny entrepreneurs with exciting new opportunities. Business start-ups no longer need to feel deterred by the prospect of a fifteen-year term lease with upwards-only rent reviews. There are deals to be had as landlords seek to offset their liabilities for business rates.

Pop-up businesses

Pop-up businesses, such as cafes or art galleries, are becoming a distinctive feature of the British landscapeand are a great way to test the water for a new business concept.

Initiatives, like The Meanwhile Project www.meanwhilespace.com, encourage property owners to make vacant space available so that would-be entrepreneurs can give it a go.

They also provide a structure that makes this possible. This includes a simple form of lease that the parties may adopt on a rent-free basis, but covering rates, insurance, utilities and any other costs (such as service charges) for the “meanwhile” period.

Reducing red tape

The reduction of red tape, planning restrictions and legal constraints are also seen as key to creating the new sustainable high streets of the future.

In her review, Mary Portas set out 28 recommendations including extending permitted development rights to make it easier to change the use of commercial properties, a more proactive use of local authorities’ statutory powers and promoting “a contract of care” between landlords and their commercial tenants.

A fairer balance

Whilst the voluntary code for leasing business premises has long aimed to strike a fairer balance between the respective interests of landlord and tenant, compliance remains patchy. Turnover based rents or monthly rental payments are still rare amongst landlords.

Never a better time

It is a tenants’ market on the high street and business owners should be bold as there has never been a better opportunity to be innovative in lease negotiations. Of course it is important to ensure that you receive good legal advice about any lease which you are considering and our Commercial Property Team would be delighted to assist.

Thinking of buying an existing business?

Buying a business rather than starting one from scratch can make good business sense provided you remember you are taking on the legacy of the previous owner.

It is essential that you are aware of every aspect of the business before buying it.

The advantages include:

  • The business is already up and running.
  • It may be easier to obtain finance if it has a proven track record.
  • You will have established customers and contacts.
  • You may inherit experienced employees.

The disadvantages include:

  • If the business has been neglected you may need to invest above the purchase price.
  • You may need a large amount of working capital to assist with the cash flow.
  • You may need to honour or renegotiate existing contracts.
  • Current staff may be unhappy with the takeover and leave or have low morale.

Free consultation with our Small Business Advice Service

Designed for small to medium sized businesses, we offer a free 30 minute legal health check consultation to help you to identify potential pitfalls, avoid future problems and to see if further help is needed and what the likely cost may be.

You are under no obligation to take the matter further. Areas on which we can advise you include:

  • Raising money and starting a business
  • Buying, selling or leasing business premises
  • Licences, Permissions and Insurance
  • Contracts with suppliers, customers and employees
  • Health and Safety Regulations
  • Employment Law

To arrange a meeting, please call us on 01689 822554 or email business@thomasdunton.co.uk.

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