Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Showbiz shop Dress Circle to close after 33 years

   West End theatre shop Dress Circle is to close after 33 years, with its owner citing the cost of running the Covent Garden premises and the economic downturn for the decision.
The Dress Circle shop in Covent Garden

The premises, which describes itself as the “longest-running showbusiness and musical theatre shop in the world”, will shut its doors for good on August 15th, after which it will continue to operate solely thought its website.
News of its closure has been met with sadness from performers including musical theatre star Dianne Pilkington, who wrote on Twitter: “An institution lost to us and a huge shame. Very sad today.”
The Stage first reported the shop’s financial difficulties in May last year, when its managing director, Murray Allan, warned that a mix of competition from download sites and the cost of renting the shop was putting it under pressure to close.
In a statement he posted on the shop’s website this week, he said: “Over the past months we have tried in vain to negotiate with our landlord to move our shop into smaller and more cost effective premises. The cost of keeping Dress Circle open in the current location is too high, and it has become apparent that we will not be able to dispose of our current lease. The downturn in the economy has also taken its toll on us, as well as the ever changing way that people are buying music. With CDs becoming relics and downloads being more popular, Dress Circle, the shop, has struggled to keep up for a long time and we have reached the point that we are no longer able to continue.”
He added that he had hoped the Olympics would bring trade to the shop, but said: “Monmouth Street is even quieter than usual and so it seems are the rest of the shops in London. It seems that all of the press coverage about the difficulties of travelling during the Olympics has scared many away from visiting the West End.”
Allan told The Stage he had “tried in vain to find a new partner within the industry to keep Dress Circle afloat” but said this had not worked out.
“Over the last 18 months I have negotiated with five different players within the theatre industry. On one occasion, after four months of talking, we agreed terms. I even agreed a contract of employment. At the eleventh hour they pulled out citing personal reasons. With no hard feelings I moved on and I sent my business plan to others in the industry. I received good feedback for the plan, but each time it came to nothing.”
Last year, a benefit gala was organised in August to raise money for the beleaguered store. However, Allan said that the event had provided “little direct financial benefit”.
He added that he had put his “heart, soul and embarrassing amounts of money into keeping the Dress Circle shop open”.
Dress Circle will now continue to do business online only, through its website at
Murray added that he hoped “to somehow, somewhere, continue with our signings and look forward to meeting our loyal customers once again”.

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