One of Ludlow’s oldest shops is facing closure within months because staff say spiralling rates have made the business unsustainable.
EJ Poyner Drapers has been trading as a family-owned business on Broad Street since 1897. But staff claim rates have increased by more than a third over the past two years rising from around £500 to £885 a month.
Margaret Edwards, an assistant at the shop, which employs three people, said: “We do not want to close but unless we get a fairer deal on business rates I don’t think we will be able to carry on.
“We have been fighting this case for about six months and our MP Philip Dunne has been looking into it for us but it looks most likely we will close and the town will lose Poyners.”
Town councillors Graeme Perks and Jim Newbold have called on people to use the shop, which sells ladies’, babies’ and children’s clothing, underwear and haberdashery, to give it a ‘fighting chance’ of survival.
But Councillor Perks said it was unlikely anything could be done to reduce the rates.
He said the shop was a ‘special place’ known to visitors from across the West Midlands and to tourists from around the world.
Business rates are set by the Valuation Office Agency and collected by local authorities – in this instance Shropshire Council.
According to the VOA the shop has a rateable value of £19,250, which is based in part on the size of its frontage.
Councillor Perks said: “Poyners is in the very unfortunate position where it has a wide shop front and I do not think there is anything that can be done to change the rate. They have been struggling for several months now.
“Other shops on the same street which have a more narrow front but go back deeper are not hit anywhere near as much.
“What myself and Jim are saying now is that at least if we can get people inside this special place and have a Christmas bonanza maybe they will have a fighting chance.
“It is a special place and it is not just people from Ludlow who use the shop. People come from far afield to shop there because of its unique nature – people from Telford and Birmingham and from as far as Singapore and Australia have shopped there.”
Andrew Bennett, spokesman for the VOA, said the rateable value was based on the location of the shop, the size of the frontage and the overall size of the shop. He said business owners could appeal if they believed they were being charged an unfair rate.
The shop opened in 1897 and was first owned by Thomas Williams, but has belonged to the Poyner family for 90 years.
Today it is owned by Michael Poyner, grandson of Jane Goodall who bought the shop while her future husband, Ernest John Poyner, was serving in the First World War.
Miss Goodall made hats on the premises and one she made in the 1920s is still on display at the shop today. She was also heavily involved in civic life and acted as mayoress for her father-in-law Richard Poyner, who was mayor from 1930-32 and in 1934 and 1936.
The town’s Poyner Road and Poyner Close were named after him.
During the Second World War she helped scores of evacuees from Liverpool and Birmingham, many of whom stayed above the shop.
The shop is one of three of the town’s few remaining businesses from yesteryear.
The others are Rickards of Ludlow ironmongers in the Bull Ring and Bodenhams outfitters, which is based on Broad Street.