Competition forces closure of Epsom cookshop

Having watched trade drain away over the last year, the owner of Epsom, Surrey cookshop, Cook In Thyme, has taken the decision to cease trading.

Competition forces closure of Epsom cookshop

Diane O’Brien told that it was “soul destroying sitting here not having any customers”, and that the shop would probably close at the end of September.

O’Brien established the shop a little over four years ago with her husband Michael as business partner. It was a return to retailing for the couple after having run a sub-post office and gift shop together years earlier. The shop is well out of the centre of Epsom, which was never an obstacle to business until new competition arrived in town.

“The main problem is Lakeland opening in a prime location in Epsom in October last year,” she said. “[Customers] just don’t need to walk the extra eighth of a mile out of town. Sales have just absolutely plummeted. So what they say about premises in the right location is absolutely everything.

“But it wasn’t just Lakeland,” she went on, “it was the weather as well and the recession. Christmas was such a disastrous Christmas. The takings were so pitiful – you pay more in electricity in the winter than you’re taking.”

A successful closing-down sale is now running in the shop, on which there is a 10-year lease with a five-year break clause coming up next June.

However, said O’Brien: “We’re negotiating with the landlord to vacate the premises before June.”

Meanwhile, O’Brien, who is 60, and her husband have made some substantial changes to their lives to make ends meet. They have temporarily rented out their apartment and moved into a small flat, and she has taken a part-time, out-of-hours job in an office that allows her to continue working in the cookshop during the day.

“It is a lot of hard work to make an honest income, but I can see an end to it,” she said.

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