HSBC, one of the top ten global banks, has been closing branches for some time. Yesterday, it announced that 62 more high street banks would close, including its branch in the Bullring, Ludlow. Customers will need to go to another town to use the bank or use the Post Office after Friday 19 May.
This closure is a blow to our town.
This is the latest setback after Budgens announced it would close shortly. There is every expectation that One Stop will leave Tower Street when the building is redeveloped. The post office will be essential for people who want to pay money into their HSBC accounts but we don’t yet know what the future of the town centre post office will be.
The closure of HSBC in Ludlow could have an impact on footfall to our local shops. People come to the bank then perhaps shop or buy a coffee elsewhere. The closure is partly down to the way that we bank – so many of us only communicate with a hole in the wall or through laptop or mobile phone. But is also down to HSBC’s business model. Along with many banks it regards contact with customers as a transaction to be delivered at minimum cost. The banks are going the opposite way to that of many high end clothing shops, which want a high street presence to boost their online sales.
But let’s not be melancholy. Shop vacancy is our town is low – around 5% compared to around 12% nationally. We have a new retailer moving into the shop beside Barclays. A trader is also preparing the vacant unit alongside the French Pantry.
We must recognise that not all independent retailers will succeed in their expectations. Some will come and go, while the signature shops that define our unique high street remain as anchors – Bodenhams, Castle Books, Silver Pear, Fruitbasket and so many others. But these signature retailers are threatened by huge hikes in business rates.
I hope that another retailer will move into the HSBC building quickly after May. And I hope that horror of a modern frontage will be replaced by some decent windows.