Artful Codger, by Roger May, May 8, 2015

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It’s a shame to hear news of the imminent closure of the Homebase store on Lynn’s Pierpoint Retail Park, but it hardly comes as a surprise, given the downturn in the home improvement market in recent years and the struggles in this sector.

Ever since the recession struck in 2008, families have been forced to rein back their expenditure, and home improvement was always an obvious area to be hit hard.

While there are some signs of recovery in the economy, many people have been reluctant to loosen their purse strings, and stores such as Homebase have still been feeling the pinch.

Although there are claims that the current generation have lost their appetite for home improvement and DIY, I feel this is not the only reason for the downturn.

The rise of Generation Rent – young people unable to afford their first home and consequently being forced to either remain at home with their parents or to rent property – has surely hit the home improvement market.

People living in rented properties are less likely to be splashing out on new kitchens or bathrooms, or other embellishments.

Moreover, this is a problem that looks like it is going to be around for a long time, given the shortage of available property for sale and the difficulties facing young people trying to get together the necessary finance to obtain their first mortgage. Surely a major poser here for the in-coming government to get to grips with?

The demise of Lynn’s Homebase store will leave a large commercial property available in a prominent position on the Hardwick Retail Estate.

Given the general popularity of the other stores at Hardwick, the Homebase site is still a comparatively attractive trading location with good parking and general infrastructure around it, and it would be reasonable to hope that a new tenant could be attracted to the premises.

Indeed, it will be intriguing to see just what kind of business is attracted.

Let’s hope it brings even more variety to the Retail Area.

While it is always sad to see the demise of a company with the resultant loss of jobs for many local people, it is often a sign of a change in shopping patterns and retail demands, rather than a national downturn which brings trouble for everyone.

Who knows? If a new retailer moves into the premises within the near future, it may provide opportunities for some of those people affected by June’s closure.

That might sound a bit optimistic, but given the general level of trading and new activity at Hardwick over the last year or two, there’s a reasonable chance the upward trend will be maintained.