By Matthew Appleby
The sting has been taken out of the congestion charge’s extension into west London this month because of buoyant spring business, according to garden retailers.
Earl’s Court-based Rassells manager Richard Hood said of the £8 a day charge, extended from central London on 1 March: “It’s the spring season and if we weren’t doing well anyway there would be something wrong. But there will be a negative impact. The best thing for us would be if the zone continued to expand and include all our customers. A lot of retailers are getting jumpy and saying they’re 30-40 per cent down but they need to look again in six or 12 months.”
Hood added that a Homebase store in W14, just outside the zone, could be cashing in. Homebase could not confirm this.
King’s Road-based World’s End Nurseries owner James Lotery said: “We can’t tell as a seasonal business. You could argue we get twice the customers at the weekend because there’s no charge then. As a business you get no reduction so it costs £300 a month per van — that’s money upfront so it has a major impact. But people will get used to paying it.”
Chelsea Gardener assistant manager Andrew Kyte said: “We deliver each day but we don’t swallow the extra charges, customers do. We’re leaving it a couple of months to see how it goes.”
Clifton Nurseries, just outside the zone in Maida Vale, said the charge may have been a factor in a 27 per cent rise in sales in March. But managing director Tad Paluchowski said a new Daylesford concession and increased marketing meant sales were also 25 per cent up on 2006 in February before the charge was extended.
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