A KFC to replace a stationery installed for 33 years. In the rue du Gros Horloge, small independent shops are becoming increasingly rare. With rents that have become too high, only large brands can set up shop in this emblematic street of Rouen (Seine-Maritime).
Where have the independent traders on rue du Gros-Horloge in Rouen gone? In recent years, small businesses have gradually given way to retail chains. fast food and major retailers. Latest example: the iconic Stationery, installed for 33 years at number 173, which will soon be planned by a KFC. “But what a horror “, we launch Yasmine and Evelyne, 65, when we tell them who will replace the stationery. “Le Gros Horloge becomes the street of junk food!”, launches another passer-by.
In the pedestrian street that connects the cathedral square to the old market square, the subject divided. “It ruins the heritage. We have such a historic street with its cobblestones, its half-timberings. We would like to see more small atypical shops rather than a Burger King or a KFC”, says Arthur, 29 years old. “Not to mention the bicycle delivery men at the crossroads of rue Jeanne d’Arc and rue du Gros Horloge which pollute the landscape”.
“Personally, that doesn’t shock me, there are plenty of small independent shops in more intimate streets, Laura, 32, launches us. The rue du Gros (nickname given to the street by the Rouennais) is the busiest street in the city, so it’s normal that there are big signs. “
“The street has changed its face”
Dominique saw the rue du Gros Horloge “Face changer”. 40 years ago he was trained in traditional charcuterie “York ham”, before working at Monoprix. “Before, it was more user-friendly! There were cafes, tea rooms … There was even a nightclub instead of Mc Do! It was called ‘Le Charles’ ”.
Thierry has been employed at Fleurs du passage since 2002. “Already back then there weren’t many independent traders.” He regrets the lack of commercial events. “As soon as we try to do something, the big brands have to stand at the headquarters, we tell them that there is no budget for that. This was the case last year to put a tree in front every store on the street. Only the small independents played the game. “
Food trades, ready-to-wear, household equipment, bars and brasseries once the reputation of the rue du Gros Horloge. But if the upcoming arrival of KFC seems to cringe some, the phenomenon is not new. “It’s been a while since there are hardly any freelancers in the street “, tells us Christelle Auzou, director of the chocolate factory installed for forty years in the street, in one of the oldest houses in Rouen.
Rents that make people flee?
Does the price of rents scare the self-employed away? For twenty years, “the prices are stables”, guarantees us Anthony Hue, of the real estate firm Targeting, specializing in commercial transactions throughout the agglomeration of Rouen. “There is even today a downward trend with the health crisis”.
The rise in rents dates back to the 1970s, when rue du Gros Horloge became the first pedestrian street in France. “It changed the configuration of the street and the rents went up”, explains Philippe Depreaux, President of the Interprofessional Chamber of Commerce of Rouen.
National brands have arrived by offering very high prices in order to be able to take up locations. They chased out the independents.
Archive video, 1975: rue du Gros Horloge returned to pedestrians
“Rents which almost reach those of Paris”
Today, rents that have become too high no longer allow small traders to settle. “The rue du Gros Horloge has become the place for a number of national and international operators. The big brands have decided that this street is bankable “, tells us Souleymane Sow, trade deputy at the town hall of Rouen.
So how much does a rent cost for a shopkeeper in rue du Gros Horloge? At Ciblaction, which acted as intermediaries between Stationery and KFC, the subject is delicate. We will not have any figures, Anthony Hue is bound by professional secrecy. “The rental value is linked to the number of people passing through a street.”
“At its lowest, we are on 800 euros per square meter per year, up to 1,500 euros. To be taken into account depending on the surface, the linear of the window … It is on a case by case basis, depending on the flow of pedestrians “, slips us Pierre-Vincent Langlois, manager of AIC, specialist in business and commercial real estate.
Today we are reaching rents that a self-employed person cannot afford. Only the big teachers can afford it.
“In some areas of the street, we are on rental prices which are starting to resemble those of certain Parisian streets”, adds Sileymane Sow, deputy for commerce at the town hall of Rouen. “These are private transactions between owners and entrepreneurs of businesses”
“It’s still good news for the establishment of all these brands”, adds Sileymane Sow. “The rue du Gros Horloges has become our Champs Elysées.
The independents are resisting
However, some independent businesses are resisting. This is the case with the Deconihout drugstore, which is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year. “It is surely thanks to our quality products that we contact each other. We find products here that cannot be found elsewhere”, explains Jérôme Deconihout.
“People come to us for the quality and knowledge of the products we sell. When we sell a product, we know it’s inside and we advise people. We have a close relationship with our customers.”
Other emblematic streets of the city of 100 spiers are almost 100% occupied by independent traders: rue Massacre, rue Saint-Romain or even rue Saint-Nicolas. “We have a variety of local shops with independents that we do not find in all cities”, reassures Sileymane Sow.
With between 2,500 and 3,000 traders and artisans, Rouen is the largest trading area in Normandy.