Retail madness

When we heard the news that local florist Nicki Fiander was to close, we greeted it with mixed emotions.

On the one hand, any functioning shop in Brockley Cross is a thing to be cherished, particularly one which actually makes a positive contribution to the local streetscape. On the other, we never really used it that much because, to be honest, it wasn't the greatest shop in the world. It sold a modest and slightly old-fashioned selection of flowers and very few items for the garden, meaning that there was rarely anything there we wanted to buy.

When we heard that it was closing due to the landlord increasing the rent, pricing the current occupant out of the market, we were a bit surprised. In an area that struggles to attract businesses, on a parade which includes one of the most infamous limbo shops in Brockley and faces the dreaded double roundabout, the landlord was either mad or a capitalist genius, with a clear plan to sieze the opportunity presented by the imminent opening of The Tea Factory and the coming of the East London Line.

The latter seemed unlikely, but when the shop closed without an estate agent's sign appearing and work began to modify its layout, our spirits lifted.

But then, instead of a new occupant, a big sign appeared, advertising the shop to let. But there was no estate agent's details, only an anonymous mobile phone number to call. So we called it. A few times. Each time, we got a voicemail message from a woman who didn't identify herself. We left a message, asking for an interview about the shop. No reply. Until today.

While we were on the phone (to Lewisham Council, about local developments, coincidentally) we missed a call from a sales company based in the Republic of Ireland, giving us a number in Ireland to call, to arrange a viewing. With the prospect of being able to get some clear answers from someone about the shop disappearing over the horizon, we rang back. Voicemail. Three times.

None of this bodes well for the interview. But it bodes even less well for anyone who might be interested in opening a shop there. There is no website for the company marketing the site, no online listing for 9 Brockley Cross, as far as Google can tell.

We'd love to hear from the landlord who thought that upping the rent on a tricky site and then marketing it with an anonymous number directing people to an Irish voicemail account was an effective business strategy. And this experience is not unique. It seems that Brockley is blighted by a number of hopeless landlords, who make it as difficult as possible to open a local business. Next time someone gets your order wrong at a local cafe, remember you should be full of admiration that they even managed to open.

Our quest to speak to someone about the shop's fate continues...