This post was first published by My London on 19/08/2019.
‘The callousness of it has been astounding’ – Croydon Village Outlet traders speak out after being forced to move their businesses
Three weeks on from Croydon Council’s sudden takeover of Croydon Village Outlet and some of the traders there have spoken out about how much stress and upheaval it has caused them
While some traders have now moved into the Whitgift Centre it is not the end of uncertainty for them.
Businesses owners were shocked to be suddenly turfed out of the former Allders store on July 16.
The building was take over by Croydon Council and the Croydon Partnership as part of plans to redevelop the area for a new Westfield shopping centre.
The Partnership, which combines Westfield and Hammerson, says it has been carrying out health and safety surveys and has found issues.
There is no confirmation of when or whether the businesses will move back into the Allders building.
Now some of the displaced traders have been given spaces in the Whitgift Centre without having to pay rent, but this is only until January 2020.
After that they do not know what will happen.
So, what has been happening since the locks were changed to the Village Outlet?
Daniel Grossett runs Playnation Games which has now moved to the former Clas Ohlson store which fronts North End.
He was left unable to trade from July 15 until August 2, which he says is the busiest time of year for Playnation as well as arcade The Heart of Gaming which ran in the same unit.
The Heart of Gaming is run by John Sayer and is set to move into the Clas Ohlson store but heavy arcade games are stuck in the Village Outlet due to a decommissioned lift.
Daniel says called the Croydon Partnership every day before being offered a new location.
He adds that it has been difficult to arrange going back into their former shop to get stock.
The 37-year-old said: “You have to make an appointment and are followed round by security guards like a criminal.
“It just feels like they came in and did this with out caring about people. This is people’s lives.
“The callousness of it has been astounding and disheartening.
“I grew up in Croydon and I really believed that this town was our town, I wanted to make it better.
“I’ve always respected Croydon, we used to have so much going on. It is stifled by the short sightedness of some of the people in charge.
“They are so focussed with Westfield and they are looking so far into the future and the money they forget what they have here.
“It is Croydon Council that shut everything down and kicked us all out with no warning, they should have told us before and found us somewhere to move straight away.
“I am thankful we got in here but we missed a huge window, it was a killer.”
During the time the shop was closed Daniel continued playing his staff and reckons he lost up to £10,000.
As well as losing out on summer holiday trade Daniel has had to cancel regular community events, luckily with the help of Saif Bonar he was able to run some at Matthews Yard.
And on the day we visited him at the new location one teenager came in looking for a gaming tournament, which could no longer take place.
Ironically, it was advertised in Croydon Council’s own magazine.
Daniel says that he did receive help from some at the council, including Councillor Niroshan Sirisena as well as Una Foster and Carol Squires in the economic development department.
His frustration on how the whole thing was handled is echoed by Sidney Okudzeto, owner of menswear shop Flute and Harris which has a new unit in the Whitgift Centre.
The summer is one of the busiest times for his shop, providing wedding suits.
Lucky for Sidney his tailor Karwan Akaryi let him sort out his wedding orders in his shop in the High Street.
“If it I couldn’t do that I would be done, reputation is everything in this business,” said Sidney.