Minoo Kaae, Tanya Bielschowsky, Jean Archer and Leah Michie with Bennie Gray, owner of the Alfies Antiques Market.

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Although the battle still rages to try to save the north London centre, including the designation of an Asset of Community Value (see ATG No 2576), traders nonethless have had to look to the future.

Minoo Kaae, Tanya Bielschowsky, Jean Archer and Leah Michie joined Alfies, in Church Street, Lisson Grove which is run by Bennie Gray. They started at the centre on January 21.

Gray said: “I’m sure they’ll do well here and Alfies will undoubtedly benefit from their congenial presence.

“But I’ve mixed feelings about this because the reason for their move is the deeply regrettable closure of the Emporium – the charming small antiques market which has contributed to the distinctive character of Hampstead village for decades.

“There is a widely supported campaign to save it, which I certainly applaud, but I reckon its chances of success are slim. It’s hardly surprising that many of the dealers there, in order to safeguard their livelihoods, have decided to move to a secure location.”

Gray said the “sad closure” brings into focus the “spiralling threats faced not only by antiques shops, but by individual community shops generally up and down the country”.

He added a heartfelt plea concerning rates for small businesses. “In the face of competition from big retail chains with deep pockets, many are being forced out of business.

“One of the reasons for this is that they have to pay business rates at the same punishing level as, for example, Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, which plainly isn’t fair. In the context of rates it’s time to draw a line of distinction between small local shops on the one hand, and the increasingly dominant giants of retail trade on the other. Like many others, I would energetically support a campaign to bring this about.

“Let’s save our small shops and, in the process, help to save the vitality of our high streets too.”