M&S Aldershot to close
It has been officially confirmed, M&S Aldershot will close 26 September 2015.
The petition to save M&S was at best marginal. The store was not commercially viable. For some time, the amount of stock that cannot be sold elsewhere has been dwindling.
Whilst some may blame M&S for closing, that anger should be directed at the local council. The council has trashed Aldershot. M&S closing is a massive vote of No Confidence in the local council, a council not fit for purpose.
And to make matters worse, they held a meeting with M&S where they said Aldershot was on the up. Did they really think treating M&S as fools was helpful?
And to add insult to injury, someone’s idea of a massive piss take, you are invited to Celebrate Aldershot.
Celebrate what? Closed shops, disgusting fast food outlets, gambling joints, binge drinking bars, drunken yobs on the streets at night?
The local council has trashed Aldershot. We are now reaping the rewards.
M&S is a basket shop. People shop little and often, they wander around the town and pop in other shops, take a coffee, a bite to eat. Contrast with Morrisons in Wastegate, a trolley shop, dump in the back of the car and drive home.
In any town, around 10% of shops and local businesses are on the edge, hanging on by their fingertips. In Aldershot, that figure is probably much higher.
When a shop closes, that is one less reason to visit the town. Those on the edge see less custom, they go under. More reasons not to visit the town. More businesses on the edge, more go over the edge.
Collapse can be very rapid.
Several businesses are considering their position. They see no future in Aldershot.
In a small town in Lincolnshire a few years ago, M&S closed. What followed next was the collapse of the town.
11,000 plus signed a petition. Only they did not, there were two petitions. How much was double counting, how many not local to Aldershot? The best can do, is list numbers that signed each petition.
But let us assume we have a core of people. Signing a petition is one thing. Let us assume we have a hard core who are prepared to be activists.
We now have to decide what next? What to do to stop the collapse, to rebuild Aldershot?
Top down does not work. Bottom up, grass roots, cooperation between local businesses, local people does work.
We stop letting developers dictate policy. They are driven by short term greed.
We have The Arcade and The Galleries sitting empty. What do we do with them? There is no intention to let either. Businesses have tried.
Neither should have been built. But we have got what we have got.
The Galleries is not empty. TechStart are there. A social enterprise. They take in old computers, refurbish, provide internet access.
Start a hub, small businesses, start-ups, open co-ops, social enterprises, all cooperating with each other, not competing with each other.
- social enterprise cafe
- tool swap
- repair shop
Social enterprise cafe, intercept waste food, turn into delicious meals, pay-what-you-want. Better than food banks, lacks the social stigma, not reliant upon referrals from Job Centres
Tool swap, donate those tools you never use, borrow when you need to.
Repair shop, take in broken stuff, learn how to repair.
FabLab, high-tech equipment to use in a supervised environment.
Closure of M&S is not the only blow. Aldershot is being hit by a double whammy. An already deprived area, welfare cuts will take £1000 from every poor family. Add that up, a lot of money no longer flowing into Aldershot.
We therefore have to stop money flowing out of Aldershot.
Wastegate not only a disaster due to relocation of the centre of retail gravity away from the town centre, every tenner spent in one of the chain eateries, is a tenner drained out of Aldershot.
We must encourage quality local businesses like Caffe Macchiato, that not only retain and recycle money within the local economy, but act as quality attraction to draw people into Aldershot.
The Tea Shop Around the Corner has opened in the old Post Office in North Camp. Little footfall, and yet always busy. They note the ham they serve is from the local butcher. The local butcher sees an upturn in trade.
Look at North Laine in Brighton. Three streets, indy businesses not a chain in sight always busy.
A quality market brings people into a town. Aldershot market, two fruit and vegetable stalls and stalls selling tat. The council taking over the market has proved to be an unmitigated disaster.
Heads should roll at the council. At the very least the imbecile leader of the council should resign.
But there also has to be fundamental changes in the way the council functions. Party apparatchiks who are of no use to man nor beast, elected on a party ticket. You could count on one hand the councillors who are of any use, the rest are a complete waste of space.
We have to look to Frome in Somerset and have a Flatpack Democracy Revolution. Local people meet, choose who their candidates will be, elect them to council. In Frome, a clean sweep of the council. The council now functions differently, councillors work with local people not against, people participate in council meetings.