Shepherd's Bush Market Traders in Showdown Over Rent

Landlord still wants rent paid for period market was locked down

Shepherd's Bush Market
Shepherd's Bush Market. Picture: Owen Sheppard

Shepherd’s Bush Market tenants are in a showdown with their landlord over rent payments, after the lockdown obliterated months’ worth of trade.

Regeneration firm U+I Group offered to defer six months’ worth of rent for 112 traders who occupy the stalls and arches along the edge of the Hammersmith and City Line.

Rather than deferring the rent – meaning they would have to pay later – the traders are calling for a six-month rent suspension.

The 106-year-old market, renowned for its clothing and textiles, has gradually reopened since June 1. But after nearly three months of inactivity when only essential shops could operate, it remains far quieter than usual.

“We’re looking certainly for a rent suspension for the first quarter, because we weren’t allowed into the premises,” said James Horada, chair of the Shepherd’s Bush Market Tenants Association.

“It doesn’t seem fair. Why should we pay the rent when we weren’t using the premises? We’re also looking for a suspension for the second quarter.”

James Horada
James Horada. Picture: Owen Sheppard

Mr Horada, who works at his grandfather’s textiles shop, accused U+I of being “very bullish” and “not realistic” about the matter.

“Their attitude is that we need to pay the rent and go through the tough time together. In the end that will just starve the businesses and more of them will drop away,” said Mr Horada, who lives in Camden.

“Market traders have been very loyal, many have been paying rent for decades,” he added.

Like commercial landlords across the country, U+I faces its own problems from the lockdown, with tenants, big and small, refusing to pay.

BBC News reported in May that even huge chains such Burger King withheld rent from landlords of its restaurants. And it was reported in March that rent payments across the entire sector fell by a half.

U+I, which bought the market land six years ago, saw its share price fall from 118p per share in early February, to 73p on July 16.

The company said the rents have been deferred “indefinitely” and that it has “reassured” tenants it won’t ask for the money soon.

A spokesperson said: “We reopened the market to all permitted tenants on June 1, 85 per cent of which returned on or soon after this date. This allowed businesses to trade for the whole of the second quarter, enabling them to get back on their feet and serve the local community once more.

“From the outset, we have kept tenants informed about government guidelines and resources for funding and support and many traders have taken advantage of these initiatives. We have been in regular contact with traders to listen to their concerns and answer any queries. The market manager has also remained on-site throughout.”

Landlords have also been unable to evict tenants due to government legislation that banned them from doing so until the end of September.

Mr Horada said his fellow traders are also gunning for a rent reduction, as trade is all but certain to remain low for months ahead.

Many senior traders still also feel frightened about catching the virus.

His own shop has fewer customers than pre-lockdown, but silver linings have emerged.

“When we reopened we had a lot of people who wanted to come in for specific dress material that they hadn’t been able to buy elsewhere during the lockdown,” Mr Horada said.

“We have also had people buying patterned fabrics for making their own masks.”

Owen Shepherd - Local Democracy Reporter

July 16, 2020