TRADERS claim high rents are forcing them out of Pinner, clearing the way for large chains to open.
Two shops are to close in the next few weeks and another shopkeeper is searching for a new premises as the number of empty stores in the once-vibrant High Street continues to rise.
Some store owners fear the only businesses able to afford the rents will soon be national retail and restaurant companies.
Heaven on Earth florists, which has been in the road for 12 years, is relocating to elsewhere in Harrow.
Sarah Disney, a shopworker there, said: “The owner is moving because the rent is so high. She did try to appeal to the landlord’s better nature to reduce the amount but they won’t do that.
“I find it very surprising that there are so many empty shops on the High Street. I don’t understand why you would want to have an empty shop than have a smaller amount of rent.”
Ms Disney said she believed no one has so far offered to take over the Heaven on Earth premises.
Diana Waissel, owner of clothes shop DNK London, which has been in Pinner for 10 years, said she was being forced to move by a rent increase.
“Customers are mad that we are leaving,” she added. “I have had loads of people coming in and saying how upset they are about it.
“I think landlords should show some compassion and stop being so greedy.”
Other traders in Pinner are concerned about the future of High Street including Judy Lever-Chain, who runs New Leaf Bookshop with her husband Martin Lever.
She said: “Landlords seem to prefer to have empty shops than to make a little less money.”
Another business soon to close is handbag shop Amici, whose lease is not being renewed. The building’s lease has been taken over by the Carluccio’s restaurant company.
But the closure is an exception, as, owner Gerry Ward says the economic downturn is to blame
“It is not the rent that is high, the public are cutting back,” added Mr Ward, who has closed three other shops in the last 15 months . “Last year was difficult but this year will probably be worse. The other shops on the street are feeling it as well, but this is a national situation.”
Harrow Council’s portfolio holder for planning and economic development, Councillor Keith Ferry said: “We understand the impact of rising rents on local businesses but, unfortunately, have no control over the cost of rent set privately.
“However, we are working hard to support local businesses in a number of ways, including a business rate relief, a free business directory and the formation of new traders’ associations.”
He added that the borough had secured £860,000 from the Mayor of London’s Outer London Fund, but the money was for North Harrow and Harrow town centre, and not for Pinner.