At the beginning of May I dropped off the letter informing LB Camden property services that we are giving 3 months notice. Nappy Ever After will be leaving 96 Chalton Street at the end of July.
Is this a case of yet another shop closing down because of the problem of showrooming? Sure some people just come to our shop to see our products and then go off and buy elsewhere to get the best on-line deal – probably because they need to in this economic climate. But most of them buy with us. It’s not so much showrooming that’s the problem as our landlords, LB Camden putting up the rent. It’s risen almost 100% since we moved in and would have if we hadn’t fought every 20% hike they wanted to impose on us.
We have a 12 year lease on the property but the rent is reviewed every 3 years. Only last time they apparently didn’t have time. I assumed they had finally realised we were in recession and a rent rise would shut us down and they’d have another empty property on their hands. But no, 16 months after the rent review date we received a letter saying the rent had gone up by 20% from the rent review date. So not only do we have a deposit with LB Camden Property Services, have to pay rent 3 months in advance, we then had back rent too! Luckily we had a 3 month break-clause put into the lease so we are free to say “Thanks for the offer, but no thanks!”
But there’s another reason. When we started Nappy Ever After the nappies were cleaned at a laundry in Essex. We knew this wasn’t the greenest way to run our service but we needed to establish there was a market first and the lorries were coming into London with hotel linen already.
Then the Essex laundry decided it didn’t want to service our company any longer so we had to find an alternative. Imagine our delight when we discovered there was a hospital laundry at St Pancras Hospital (about 5 mins cycle ride away). It wasn’t just local, it was a green laundry business’ dream. It uses ozone to clean hospital laundry. This process is much greener and cheaper (once installed) than thermal disinfection. However the contractors Balfour Beatty wouldn’t consider washing nappies for us.
Thankfully we’ve found a different laundry in Tower Hamlets to wash our nappies. We want to move closer to it to reduce our road miles (albeit bicycle/zero emissions). We need to bring down our costs.
So it’s with regret we leave our friends in Somers Town. It’s been a great place to be based with a really generous and kind community and of course great transport links for our customers! It’s especially annoying as the launderette on Chalton Street has just had to close (due to a rent hike) and we would have liked to have moved in there and combined offering a local nappy laundry service with offering a launderette to the community.
Boroughs all over the UK and Europe look at our social enterprise nappy laundry service with envy. It is a strange situation. Everyone is always saying “Why aren’t there more nappy laundry services?” Because it’s hard work, right? Obviously?
We wanted to make it work in Camden and we’ve really tried. But we’re now looking to move on and really hoping to find a borough and partners that want to work with us rather than against us. There are Camden councillors and officers who have supported us, in particular thank you to our Somers Town ward councillor Roger Robinson. But someone in the council has to do something about Camden Property Services. They are just not nice people to do business with.
More on why the business model failed in my next post.