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PURE spa owner quits ‘uneconomic’ shopping malls

Becky Lumsden: we are pivoting away from retail centres (pic: Terry Murden)

Spa operator and beautician Becky Lumsden is pulling out of shopping malls as government policies are making it uneconomic to continue.

Ms Lumsden is closing her PURE unit at Silverburn near Glasgow at the end of February and is moving staff to other outlets as she focuses instead on leisure centres and hotels.

The Silverburn outlet has operated for 16 years, serving 40,000 clients and performing about 250,000 treatments and the decision, she said, was taken “with a heavy heart”.

But “the economics of retail centres no longer work for us,” she said. “With 20% of the money paid for treatments going to the Government in VAT, business rates of circa £30,000 per year, rents, centre service charges, electricity, product, laundry, wage costs for our fabulous team, and head office overheads, we cannot make the numbers add up so that we can be sure of covering our costs in a retail shopping mall.”

She added that “as a female founded entrepreneurial family business set amongst national and international chain stores, we have not always felt valued by the succession of owners who have been our landlords at Silverburn.

“We have survived a global financial crisis, Covid, and latterly inflation, rising interest rates and rampant energy bills. In the end, the current Silverburn owners decided that the PURE Spa unit should form part of the redevelopment of the old Debenhams store. This action, which was finalised in recent weeks, took the decision about whether to extend our tenancy at Silverburn out of our hands.”

Because the numbers no longer add up, she said: “We are pivoting our business away from retail centres for the time being.

Becky Lumsden says government policies have not helped (pic: Terry Murden)

“We have grown to 23 spa locations in recent years across the UK with all our new locations being in hotels and leisure clubs.

“Our clients are loving our new surroundings which often allow us to provide access to swimming pools, saunas, steam rooms, Jacuzzis, and other facilities, as well as overnight spa breaks, that we can’t offer in a retail environment.

“We can also provide the convenience of free parking and extended opening hours in most locations. Whilst we close our doors at Silverburn at the end of February, we will be opening two amazing new spas in London and have another six hotel spa locations planned to open this year.”

She added: “Our future in retail will largely depend on the future policy decisions of Governments at UK and Scottish levels.

“We were very disappointed that in the recent budget announcement, the Scottish Government opted for the third year running not to pass on business rates relief that retail, leisure and hospitality businesses in England and Wales will receive.

“Being in Scotland has cost PURE circa £200,000 since Covid with respect to business rates relief that we would have received if our six Scottish retail locations had been in England.

“The lack of Covid-related business support from the Scottish Government, and their refusal to consider much-needed reforms to the business rates system is very disappointing, but even the UK Government reliefs are only a temporary band aid for an archaic, pre internet, tax on bricks and mortar businesses, which is unfit for purpose.”

Ms Lumsden pointed to overseas markets where she said retail is performing much more strongly than in the UK.

“Recent travels to the USA, Australia and New Zealand have shown us that businesses like PURE are highly successful and thriving in retail environments in these countries. The difference between the UK and these countries is down to how taxes, primarily business rates and VAT, are applied across our sector.

“We are not talking about reducing tax revenue for Government, but rather making the taxes paid fairer by spreading the burden more evenly and eliminating arbitrary cliff edges.

“We support the Salon Employers Association and their push for changes to tax laws UK wide to save hairdressers and beauty salons.

On the closure of Silverburn she said all gift cards, vouchers, courses, and memberships can be used at any of the 23 venues around the UK.

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