Posts Tagged ‘clone town’

Why mourn failing High Street retailers?

January 18, 2013
HMV occupation

HMV occupation

Sincil Street

Sincil Street

Whilst we may feel sorry for the staff who have lost their jobs or will lose their jobs, we should not mourn the loss of Jessops, HMV or Blockbuster. All three were rubbish retailers who will not be missed.

My experience of Jessops was they knew nothing of cameras. They would feed a customer any bullshit to flog a camera.

My experience of HMV, loud, moronic, distorted music blasting out. It was as though they deliberately wished to drive people out of the shop. You did not walk in and think, I wonder what that is, it sounds interesting, I might like to buy it. I would walk in, turn on my heels and walk out. Staff lacking any knowledge of music, very poor choice. In recent years they have completely lost their way, very little music, boxed sets of rubbish TV programmes, iPads.

I would differentiate HMV shops from HMV record label. The record label has been destroyed by greed, turning music into a commodity (which is all the HMV shops stock) and criminalising those who love music. This is true of all the big record labels. If you treat potential customers as criminals, then you deserve to fail. And who needs record labels?

HMV still trading are refusing to honour gift vouchers. Staff should do the decent thing, ignore management edicts and honour these gift vouchers. After all nothing to lose, you are losing your jobs and not getting paid. Some staff are now occupying HMV stores due to the failure to pay their wages.

My experience of Blockbusters, badly scratched DVDs that were unplayable, very poor choice of films, multiple copies of the same Hollywood rubbish. Small selection of foreign films was better. Unbelievably rude staff who seemed to be Asda rejects.

Indie record shops do a far better job, try Ben’s Records in Guildford, Resident Records in North Laine in Brighton, Off the Beaten Tracks in Louth in Lincolnshire, Record Corner in Godalming.

London Camera Exchange know their stuff, do not try to sell you anything, and you do not feel you are dealing with a chain.

For DVDs, libraries offer a far better choice, as does Ben’s Records.

These retailers are no loss. They made every High Street look the same

Boston has recently been griping at the dire state of its High Street. But why should anyone visit when every High Street looks the same, Clone Town, same shops.

It is corrupt and incompetent planners in bed with greedy developers who have made all our High Streets look the same. Councillors now wringing their hands and shedding crocodile tears are the same councillors who gave planning consent and backing for unwanted retail development that crushed independent businesses. Our High Streets are now paying the ultimate price of Clone Town, now they are all the same boarded-up shops.

Aldershot is the classic example of a town destroyed by a local council with hypocritical two-faced councillors shedding crocodile tears over the dire state of the town centre. The same council is now in bed with McDonald’s trying to destroy The Tumbledown Dick, an old coaching inn in Farnborough.

Loss of these rubbish retail chains provides a space for independent retailers to move in and offer a better service.

Lincoln is unusual in that it has a high number of independent coffee shops. But this owes no thanks to the City Council. When Stokes tried to create a downstairs coffee bar in their lovely old building on the High Bridge in Lincoln, they faced a two year battle. Sincil Street, the only remaining heritage outside the Central Market, is facing destruction It is an area of small, local businesses.

Contrast with North Laine in Brighton, lots of quirky independent businesses very popular.

Local businesses recycle money within a local economy, chains drain money out of the local economy. If you are worried about the dire state of the High Street, the last thing you want is national retail chains draining money out of a collapsing local economy.

The next chain to fail will be Waterstone’s.

A petition has been launched by two independent bookshops blaming Amazon for failing High Street. They are wrong. It was the chains that killed our independent shops and turned our towns into Clone Towns.

It is Waterstone’s that has killed our independent bookshops. When they do deals on books offering for half price or less, it is predatory pricing designed to destroy independent bookshops. We have lost a quarter in a period of five years. Waterstone’s displays books based on what the publisher will pay, not on merit. I have yet to find a Waterstone’s that has Neverseconds on display or staff that know of the book, even though it has had masses of publicity.

Contrast with Bassano del Grappa, four independent bookshops happily co-existing.

When Costa and tax dodging Starbucks blitz an area with coffee shops, they do so to drive the indie coffee shops out of business.

Yes, Amazon dodges tax, but then so does Starbucks. Address the tax dodging, but do not muddy the waters by conflating with other issues.

There is something seriously wrong with our economy when it is dependent upon pointless consumer spending in the High Street. This dates from the 1950s when it was seen we were producing far more than we needed. People had to be conned into buying what they did not need. We have also seen a massive expansion of retail space. Neither was sustainable. The planet cannot sustain, neither could the High Street at a time of austerity and triple dip recession. What we are seeing is necessary readjustment, from a system that was not sustainable, where people shop locally, value independent retailers, value their local heritage.

We should see the loss of HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster, and hopefully Waterstone’s, as an opportunity to rejuvenate our High Streets. Places where once again it is a joy to be.

Southwold says no to Costa, local council says yes

August 14, 2012
Southwold notocosta

Southwold notocosta

Dear twitter. Despite all the support objecting to Costa Coffee in Southwold, their application was passed tonight. — Emma Freud

Once again we have a local council sticking two fingers up to local residents and acting in the interest of Big Business, not the locality, not the local economy.

Advice from useless planning officials: Councillors must rubber-stamp application as will cost the Council money if it goes to appeal.

It only costs money if you lose. You only lose because the planning officials are not up to the job. They are capable of deciding where a garden shed may be sited, and often not that, anything else is way beyond their pay grade and competence.

Residents of Southwold said they did not want a Costa Coffee Shop in their town. A previous application was refused on the grounds that it could harm the town’s “unique character”. If that was true before, what has changed?

There may be grounds for a Judicial Review, though these are granted not on the merits or otherwise of the application but on whether or not correct procedures are followed.

Questions have to be raised against the planning officials who pushed on behalf of Costa. They claimed it would not detrimentally affect the “vitality and viability” of the town centre.

This is simply not true. Clone shops, the same in every town centre up and down the country are destroying our towns, turning them into clone towns. Those towns and town centres that are vibrant and full of vitality are those which lack clone shops, North Laines in Brighton is a good example. One of the pleasures of a day trip to Brighton is North Laines, three streets with individual quirky shops. Clone shops are draining money out of an area, thus are a detriment to the vitality and viability of an area. A Costa Coffee Shop is not going to draw people in when you can drink their disgusting coffee anywhere in the country.

Shame on those councillors who failed to act on behalf of local people, on behalf of the local economy. The very people they are elected to serve.

One pathetic councillor left in tears after being heckled. She has only herself to blame.

The public gallery was then cleared. The public should have refused to leave, and only left if the police were called and asked them to leave. The Town Hall belongs to the people.

What we have seen is a repeat of what happened in Bristol and Totnes: Costa like a bunch of corporate thugs muscling their way into a town where they are not wanted and lily-livered councillors kowtowing to Costa.

The good folk of Southwold now need to organise a boycott of Costa.

Why visit Brighton?

November 5, 2009
Brighton seafront

Brighton seafront

Brighton, with its individual shops and quirky character, has bucked the trend of failing town centres.

Synchronicity: Strange, I was thinking of why visit Brighton, turned on the radio, and there was an excellent discussion of exactly the thoughts in my head! [see You and Yours, BBC Radio 4, Wednesday 4 November 2009]

According to the programme, The Lanes and North Laine areas of Brighton were bucking the current retail trends, with shop vacancy levels of around 5% and footfall figures (the number of people on the street) holding firm. By contrast, the part of Brighton with High Street retailers was showing 30% vacancy (similar to national trends).

I was in the middle of a facebook banter with a friend. I suggested she took the Gatwick train from Guildford on a Sunday, changed at Gatwick for the fast Southern train (Victoria to Brighton), but not the slow first Capital Connect cattle trucks. But be wary of rail works which turns a pleasant day out into a nightmare.

Why visit Brighton on a Sunday? I love to go down to Brighton on a Sunday, wander around the North Laine area (which I prefer to The Lanes), visit the many quirky and independent shops, clone town they are not, eat in the excellent little restaurants. Then wander down to the seafront, stroll along the pier, stroll along the seafront, sample the cockles and crab sandwiches, browse at the bookstall near the burnt out pier, and just take in what is going on.

The little Suffolk market town of Saxmundham said no to Tesco, and as a result local food retailers are thriving. Saxmundham still has the butcher and baker and many others shops worth visiting, and as a result has become the market town to visit in the local area. But these are little green oasis, the jewels in the crown, in an otherwise food desert.

At Upton Park in East London, the dysfunctional local council is trying to destroy a much loved local market. [see Friends of Queens Market]

Brighton has Infinity Foods and Taj the Greengrocer, shopping for food once again becomes a pleasant experience, something huge superstores can never be no matter how much their marketing budget tries to convince us otherwise.

Kensington and Chelsea has passed local legislation which stops a developer buying a block in a street for redevelopment.

Contrast Brighton with Farnborough or Aldershot where the dysfunctional local council has laid waste to both town centres, waged war against local retailers and driven most of them if not out of town, out of business. Unlike neighbouring Guildford which has a thriving farmers market on the first Tuesday of the month, Aldershot and Farnborough lack even a farmers market.

Do we really want all our towns to look the same? The French have a name for it, ‘la Londonization’! When recession bites, High Street chains are the first to pull out, leaving behind a wasteland. I will always remember a Chinese friend asking me did Communists run the country? It was her only explanation of the sameness and blandness of everywhere she went.

Visit Puerto de la Cruz, an old colonial town in Tenerife. The shops are small, run by local people.

The same is true of towns large and small in Europe. When a Czech friend visited from Prague, she was shocked that she could not buy bread, that there were no local bakers where she could buy fresh bread.

Bread is the staple of life, and yet we have allowed our bakeries to be destroyed.

It is not just people prefer character to Clone Town, there are serious economics at work here. Large chain stores drain money out of the local economy, often out of the country, whereas local retailers recycle money within the local economy.

Brighton of today has changed little from the Brighton of the inter-war years depicted in the film Brighton Rock, adapted from the novel of the same name by Graham Greene. Which explains why Brighton, unlike many other seaside resorts long past their sell-by dates, is still a popular place to visit.

Also see

Keith Parkins, Curitiba – Designing a sustainable city, heureka, April 2006

Keith Parkins, Why visit Brighton?, Indymedia UK, 5 November 2009

%d bloggers like this: