St Clement's car park flats development ‘to blame’ for charity bookshop closure

Georgia Poole, manager of the Sobell Bookshop on the Plain, which is closing down

Georgia Poole, manager of the Sobell Bookshop on the Plain, which is closing down

First published in News The Oxford Times: Photograph of the Author by , Education Reporter, also covering West Oxford. Call me on (01865) 425437

A CHARITY bookshop says it is the first casualty of the huge reduction of the St Clement’s car park – and other traders are fearing for their future.

The Sobell Bookshop on the Plain has closed, with the charity’s chief executive saying it could no longer justify staying opening.

But Colin Cook, the board member for city development, denied the car park was the cause – blaming the price the charity charged for its books, instead.

A year ago, work began for the student housing being built above the car park – due to finish in August – with the number of parking spaces available dropping from 120 to 37.

At the time, traders said the lack of parking for shoppers would hit business and yesterday, Sobell House’s chief executive Diane Gardner said the shop – which opened just three years ago – was just not getting people coming into the store as they had nowhere nearby to park.

She said: “Initially the shop traded well and we were very happy with its results and the chance for Sobell House Hospice Charity to reach a new audience.

“Unfortunately the footfall and donations have now fallen as a result of the reduction in car parking places to the point that we can no longer justify keeping it open.”

The Oxford Times:

  • St Clement’s car park, which has had its spaces reduced

The charity’s books operation contribute to 50 per cent of the total funds for Sobell House, based in the grounds of Churchill Hospital.

She said: “We are very grateful to the local East Oxford community for their support while we have been on St Clements and will miss being a part of the local scene.”

Manager Georgia Poole added: “It is upsetting because the shop could have done quite well. Parking was the main problem because there was nowhere for people to drop things off at the shop.”

The Sobell bookshop closed last Sunday, March 30.

Patrick Clacy, of nearby And So To Bed store, said: “There has definitely been a significant effect on trade in the area.

“I would say a lot of the restaurants will have had the biggest impact, because they do rely on passersby and why would people drive here when they know there is nowhere for them to park.

“I don’t yet have solid figures for how it has affected us but I know we will have had drop in trade.”

Clinton Pugh, owner of Cafe CoCo, said at the end of last year he estimated he had lost £40,000 and has had to close the business for half the week.

He said: “We are desperate for the summer to come, which will bring more people in on foot and hopefully bring us out of this lull.”

But Mr Cook, board member for city development, said of the bookstore’s closing: “It doesn’t surprise me that they are shutting. I think the books were too dear; most charity shops make a thumping great loss selling books.

“I suspect that is why Sobell House has not fared well. I would be interested to hear what evidence they have that the car park is the only factor which has affected them.

“You don’t need to drive a car to be able to buy some books and there are excellent alternatives where people can park.”

He said he understood there to have been a five per cent drop in shoppers, but said it is lower than the seven per cent fall on the country’s high streets, and traders could apply for a rates reduction.

All the stock from the East Oxford store will be moved to its store in Little Clarendon Street, which will now open on Sundays from April 27.

Comments (13)

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7:17am Mon 7 Apr 14

Milkbutnosugarplease says...

The best charity shop for books is the Cancer Research Outlet in Botley Road, where all books are 50p. I haven't been into any other charity shops since going there. Maybe Sobell House could try the same idea in an empty store with its own parking.
The best charity shop for books is the Cancer Research Outlet in Botley Road, where all books are 50p. I haven't been into any other charity shops since going there. Maybe Sobell House could try the same idea in an empty store with its own parking. Milkbutnosugarplease
  • Score: -1

7:54am Mon 7 Apr 14

JanetJ says...

Perhaps Mr Cook can advise where the other " excellent alternatives where people can park.” are exactly as I don't seem to be able to find them so as a consequence if I can't park inSt Clements - and you rarely can I just don't shop in that area,
Perhaps Mr Cook can advise where the other " excellent alternatives where people can park.” are exactly as I don't seem to be able to find them so as a consequence if I can't park inSt Clements - and you rarely can I just don't shop in that area, JanetJ
  • Score: 4

7:59am Mon 7 Apr 14

Sandy Wimpole-Smythe says...

But Colin Cook, the board member for city development, denied the car park was the cause – blaming the price the charity charged for its books, instead.

Typical comment from an arrogant little jobsworth.
But Colin Cook, the board member for city development, denied the car park was the cause – blaming the price the charity charged for its books, instead. Typical comment from an arrogant little jobsworth. Sandy Wimpole-Smythe
  • Score: 6

8:58am Mon 7 Apr 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

Milkbutnosugarplease wrote:
The best charity shop for books is the Cancer Research Outlet in Botley Road, where all books are 50p. I haven't been into any other charity shops since going there. Maybe Sobell House could try the same idea in an empty store with its own parking.
The Botley outlet is very good isn't it.

Other good ones to remember are the charity shops in Templar's Square shopping centre. Parking is free all day on a Sunday and Bank Holidays (Not long until Good Friday/Easter Monday) - so perfect for dropping off quality items that could help others.
[quote][p][bold]Milkbutnosugarplease[/bold] wrote: The best charity shop for books is the Cancer Research Outlet in Botley Road, where all books are 50p. I haven't been into any other charity shops since going there. Maybe Sobell House could try the same idea in an empty store with its own parking.[/p][/quote]The Botley outlet is very good isn't it. Other good ones to remember are the charity shops in Templar's Square shopping centre. Parking is free all day on a Sunday and Bank Holidays (Not long until Good Friday/Easter Monday) - so perfect for dropping off quality items that could help others. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: -1

10:20am Mon 7 Apr 14

mytaxes says...

So yet again the taxpayer is wrong and Mr. Cook and the council right. I never knew he was such an expert on retail, he works for the university doesn't he? Obviously there is hidden depth to this man that makes him such an expert on everything that he can ignore the business community when it suits him.
So yet again the taxpayer is wrong and Mr. Cook and the council right. I never knew he was such an expert on retail, he works for the university doesn't he? Obviously there is hidden depth to this man that makes him such an expert on everything that he can ignore the business community when it suits him. mytaxes
  • Score: 4

11:15am Mon 7 Apr 14

robbo81 says...

i don't think that the car park closure is the cause at all. Why would you drive here to donate books? to get there you'd have driven past a million other charity shops.

I think people aren't donating as much, there's so many book swap schemes and it's so easy to privately sell that many people might want the funds. Others just might not care who receives the donations so will go for convenience over cause.

As for Coco. Rubbish, I reckon he purposely shuts to make a point because he kicked up such a stink in the first place he didn't want to lose face. Just can't see how somewhere that relies a lot on alcohol can claim a lack of parking has affected them. I don't see that they'd get a daytime driving business lunch crowd as it takes so long to drive anywhere in oxford that lunch would be over by the time you reached st clems from Headington or Botley say.
i don't think that the car park closure is the cause at all. Why would you drive here to donate books? to get there you'd have driven past a million other charity shops. I think people aren't donating as much, there's so many book swap schemes and it's so easy to privately sell that many people might want the funds. Others just might not care who receives the donations so will go for convenience over cause. As for Coco. Rubbish, I reckon he purposely shuts to make a point because he kicked up such a stink in the first place he didn't want to lose face. Just can't see how somewhere that relies a lot on alcohol can claim a lack of parking has affected them. I don't see that they'd get a daytime driving business lunch crowd as it takes so long to drive anywhere in oxford that lunch would be over by the time you reached st clems from Headington or Botley say. robbo81
  • Score: 0

11:23am Mon 7 Apr 14

Soggybotham says...

Did the prices of their books increase suddenly when the work on the car park started or did they remain roughly the same? Unless they increased, you can rule out price as being the cause of the decrease in footfall and ultimate closure.

Is Colin Cook stupid or does he think that the rest of us are?
Did the prices of their books increase suddenly when the work on the car park started or did they remain roughly the same? Unless they increased, you can rule out price as being the cause of the decrease in footfall and ultimate closure. Is Colin Cook stupid or does he think that the rest of us are? Soggybotham
  • Score: 3

12:16pm Mon 7 Apr 14

icba1957 says...

"board member for city development"

Does that mean he is supposed to develop the city (in which case he is failing miserably), or that he is in the pocket of developers in the city (a place he occupies with style).

Bring on the next local elections ...
"board member for city development" Does that mean he is supposed to develop the city (in which case he is failing miserably), or that he is in the pocket of developers in the city (a place he occupies with style). Bring on the next local elections ... icba1957
  • Score: 3

12:26pm Mon 7 Apr 14

King Joke says...

robbo81 wrote:
i don't think that the car park closure is the cause at all. Why would you drive here to donate books? to get there you'd have driven past a million other charity shops.

I think people aren't donating as much, there's so many book swap schemes and it's so easy to privately sell that many people might want the funds. Others just might not care who receives the donations so will go for convenience over cause.

As for Coco. Rubbish, I reckon he purposely shuts to make a point because he kicked up such a stink in the first place he didn't want to lose face. Just can't see how somewhere that relies a lot on alcohol can claim a lack of parking has affected them. I don't see that they'd get a daytime driving business lunch crowd as it takes so long to drive anywhere in oxford that lunch would be over by the time you reached st clems from Headington or Botley say.
Too true. It's obvious a place like that is going to rely for 90% of its trade on footfall in the vicinity. Anybody so desperate to come from afar to visit Coco's - and it is a great place - can use one of the 100-odd buses an hour which go within p'ssing distance of the front door.
[quote][p][bold]robbo81[/bold] wrote: i don't think that the car park closure is the cause at all. Why would you drive here to donate books? to get there you'd have driven past a million other charity shops. I think people aren't donating as much, there's so many book swap schemes and it's so easy to privately sell that many people might want the funds. Others just might not care who receives the donations so will go for convenience over cause. As for Coco. Rubbish, I reckon he purposely shuts to make a point because he kicked up such a stink in the first place he didn't want to lose face. Just can't see how somewhere that relies a lot on alcohol can claim a lack of parking has affected them. I don't see that they'd get a daytime driving business lunch crowd as it takes so long to drive anywhere in oxford that lunch would be over by the time you reached st clems from Headington or Botley say.[/p][/quote]Too true. It's obvious a place like that is going to rely for 90% of its trade on footfall in the vicinity. Anybody so desperate to come from afar to visit Coco's - and it is a great place - can use one of the 100-odd buses an hour which go within p'ssing distance of the front door. King Joke
  • Score: 0

12:45pm Mon 7 Apr 14

Andrew:Oxford says...

King Joke wrote:
robbo81 wrote:
i don't think that the car park closure is the cause at all. Why would you drive here to donate books? to get there you'd have driven past a million other charity shops.

I think people aren't donating as much, there's so many book swap schemes and it's so easy to privately sell that many people might want the funds. Others just might not care who receives the donations so will go for convenience over cause.

As for Coco. Rubbish, I reckon he purposely shuts to make a point because he kicked up such a stink in the first place he didn't want to lose face. Just can't see how somewhere that relies a lot on alcohol can claim a lack of parking has affected them. I don't see that they'd get a daytime driving business lunch crowd as it takes so long to drive anywhere in oxford that lunch would be over by the time you reached st clems from Headington or Botley say.
Too true. It's obvious a place like that is going to rely for 90% of its trade on footfall in the vicinity. Anybody so desperate to come from afar to visit Coco's - and it is a great place - can use one of the 100-odd buses an hour which go within p'ssing distance of the front door.
Or park in Union Street? Its only 4-5 minutes walk away.

Union Street is very handy for people who don't mind a short walk into the city centre. At £4.70 for 4-6 hours, it's the same price as the P&R + Bus for the same period.
[quote][p][bold]King Joke[/bold] wrote: [quote][p][bold]robbo81[/bold] wrote: i don't think that the car park closure is the cause at all. Why would you drive here to donate books? to get there you'd have driven past a million other charity shops. I think people aren't donating as much, there's so many book swap schemes and it's so easy to privately sell that many people might want the funds. Others just might not care who receives the donations so will go for convenience over cause. As for Coco. Rubbish, I reckon he purposely shuts to make a point because he kicked up such a stink in the first place he didn't want to lose face. Just can't see how somewhere that relies a lot on alcohol can claim a lack of parking has affected them. I don't see that they'd get a daytime driving business lunch crowd as it takes so long to drive anywhere in oxford that lunch would be over by the time you reached st clems from Headington or Botley say.[/p][/quote]Too true. It's obvious a place like that is going to rely for 90% of its trade on footfall in the vicinity. Anybody so desperate to come from afar to visit Coco's - and it is a great place - can use one of the 100-odd buses an hour which go within p'ssing distance of the front door.[/p][/quote]Or park in Union Street? Its only 4-5 minutes walk away. Union Street is very handy for people who don't mind a short walk into the city centre. At £4.70 for 4-6 hours, it's the same price as the P&R + Bus for the same period. Andrew:Oxford
  • Score: 0

1:29pm Mon 7 Apr 14

mytaxes says...

icba1957 wrote:
"board member for city development"

Does that mean he is supposed to develop the city (in which case he is failing miserably), or that he is in the pocket of developers in the city (a place he occupies with style).

Bring on the next local elections ...
Unfortunately, he is not up for election this year as he was voted in again last time. Just shows that it is hardly worth voting in local elections as the same old councillors get in again every time no matter whether they are good or bad.
[quote][p][bold]icba1957[/bold] wrote: "board member for city development" Does that mean he is supposed to develop the city (in which case he is failing miserably), or that he is in the pocket of developers in the city (a place he occupies with style). Bring on the next local elections ...[/p][/quote]Unfortunately, he is not up for election this year as he was voted in again last time. Just shows that it is hardly worth voting in local elections as the same old councillors get in again every time no matter whether they are good or bad. mytaxes
  • Score: 1

9:14pm Mon 7 Apr 14

cuckoo says...

Hmmmm! Regarding Clinton Pugh having to temporarily close Café Coco: pretty sure Kazbar and Café Tarifa are also part of the group of 'eateries' he is connected with.........also in the Cowley Road. Rarely see Kazbar empty!!!!!
Back on topic maybe, just maybe, there are just too many charity shops in the vicinity!
Hmmmm! Regarding Clinton Pugh having to temporarily close Café Coco: pretty sure Kazbar and Café Tarifa are also part of the group of 'eateries' he is connected with.........also in the Cowley Road. Rarely see Kazbar empty!!!!! Back on topic maybe, just maybe, there are just too many charity shops in the vicinity! cuckoo
  • Score: 0

10:04pm Mon 7 Apr 14

Dreaming Spires says...

What did they expect? It was always obvious that the businesses in St Clements were going to suffer when the parking went. This mania for building everywhere is costing all of us in Oxford dearly. Next to go is the countryside near Headington.
What did they expect? It was always obvious that the businesses in St Clements were going to suffer when the parking went. This mania for building everywhere is costing all of us in Oxford dearly. Next to go is the countryside near Headington. Dreaming Spires
  • Score: 1

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