Going to buy a new zip for a pair of jeans this week, I was shocked to find Oxford's only remaining fabric and haberdashery shop had closed down owing to rent increases (according to the sign on the door) after many years of apparently successful trading. Even more surprising in that King's occupied some pretty unprepossessing upstairs premises which you could hardly imagine would command either enormous rent hikes or rival businesses vying for.
This is not the only independent trader to disappear from the Oxford street scene lately after many years, and I can't help wondering why there aren't blanket rent and rate freezes in this recession, as how can it more advantageous to end up with empty units and buildings generating no income at all and causing gaps in the street scene like missing teeth, than landlords supporting tenants through these tricky times? Is it not bad enough that the banks have pretty well frozen loan support to small businesses, without the government and local councils joining in the kicking?
Take Oxford's historic Covered Market for example. Despite being a prime tourist attraction for decades, it has also been under threat for years through exhorbitant rents imposed on the tenants, rents out of all proportion to inflation, and sometimes sadly, to takings.
But it's the Covered Market. What else could go there? What would the vision be for it if all the tenants were forced out?
Then there's the obvious knock-on effect that the more businesses which fail, the greater the number of unemployed, which surely helps no one, least of all the government and economy. And with the demise of our once proud manufacturing base and the much publicised brain drain, if we Brits are now reduced to a nation of shopkeepers and shoppers, support for commerce is needed now more than ever, or what is left?
It seems like a vicious circle. At least in the US, some of the greedy bankers have come forward and apologised for their short-termism and even given their bonuses back. What public atonement and restitution have we seen from any of ours yet, let alone an emergency government economic rescue plan, except for bailing out a few of our more foolhardy, bad bet banks?
Perhaps as one innovative trader has it, the problem with this country is footwear.
Or perhaps we will have to resort to this solution to restore the economy if supply of employees is outstripping demand.
Incidentally I found out why it was a bad idea of Mr Brown's to print more money the other day when a homeless man joked '£30 for a cup of tea, miss?'