Loss-making children’s shop shuts in business shake-up

    The Early Learning Centre

    The Early Learning Centre in Calverley Road has been forced to shut after the company which owns the brand admitted it had become ‘unprofitable’, the Times can reveal.

    We understand from a well-placed source that increases in rent at the prime site may have contributed to the shop’s closure.

    The empty premises is now back on the market, listed by commercial agent Colliers International, with rental offers ‘in excess of’ £82,500 being sought.

    This is before business rates of over £36,000, or 49.3p in the pound, are taken into consideration.

    A spokesman for Mothercare, which owns the Early Learning Centre, said the closure of the store was part of a broader restructuring of the group with a focus on closing loss-making stores.

    She said: “The Early Learning Centre store on Calverley Road in Tunbridge Wells closed on September 23.

    “Whilst we regret the closure of the store, it is part of a larger transformation plan for our business.

    “The plan will see us close a small number of our unprofitable stores across the UK to invest in cutting-edge online and mobile shopping channels, as well as refurbish some of our other larger stores.

    “Our customers will continue to have access to ELC products and services at Mothercare’s Tunbridge Wells store, which is a stone’s throw away.”

    When asked whether the rent sought for the former Early Learning Centre site was too high, a spokesman for Colliers International said it was based on the going market rate and not excessive for the area.

    He added: “The rent in town will be affected by what other units nearby are currently being let at. We aim to let the property as close to the going market rate as possible.”

    A spokesman for the Federation of Small Busi-ness said high rent, coupled with high business rates, was even more damaging to small shop owners or anyone wishing to set up a new business.

    She said: “High rent can put people off moving to an area and along with rates are a key issue for our members.

    “High rent is certainly off-putting to start-up firms; businesses have got to factor these costs into their business plan.

    “Ultimately if you want to run a business in a popular area, you will have to take rent into consideration.

    “Perhaps creative use of space such as sharing retail spaces and pop-up shops would be appropriate for some businesses.”