Thursday, 8 September 2011

Mary Portas - what's the new high street 'model' then??

Did you see Mary Portas on the news last night? – click here

She was commissioned by the government in May to look at the problems of the High Street, but it appears she is making slow progress....

"There are some towns where it is dead, the horse has bolted," she said, adding that in such towns it was time to give up on the previous model and rethink its uses. When asked by the man from the BBC ‘What do you think the new model (for high streets) will be?’ Mary said ‘When I work that out I will let you know.’ Let’s hope she does.

Here there are real problems with Crosby Village which we want fixed, but also some clues as to what these new models might be.

For Mary’s benefit we describe one of these below, although we should say we thought the small amount that Mary did say made a lot of sense, unlike the two unimaginative blokes interviewed by Jeremy Paxman afterwards.

A Clue from Crosby - New ‘Linked Trips’

This is professional, big-business, retail-speak for saying that once you have been to John Lewis you’re likely to go to Pizza Express or Gap or the Odeon as well. Once upon a time High Streets worked because people would go to the green grocer and then the butcher, baker and candlestick maker (once upon a long time ago).

In today’s retail environment this concept is often pushed by supermarkets who imply their presence and influx of customers will promote use of surrounding local businesses , but as they are now trying to sell everything you can think of the only linked trip their customers actually make is to the car park.

New ideas about linked trips are fundamental to reviving the High Street.

Ballet Class-Apples-Bread-Coffee

Kathy Watkins School of Dance provides excellent teaching for children of all ages, with classes in the afternoon and evening during the week, and all day Saturdays. I take my young daughter at 11am on Saturdays for a 45 minute class that costs £3.00. The dance studio, with full mirrored wall, is on South Road above the green grocer, Pineapple, so I buy some fruit - 6 good apples 99p - cheaper than the supermarket, some veg from Lancashire, eggs from Hightown. As I then still have 35 minutes to kill, too long to wait, too short to go home, I go to the bakers, Satterthwaites ,a few shops down and then for a rare child-free moment to Koffee to read the paper with a drink. Then its collection time and we both go home happy.

I usually spend £10 to £25 in total, and I am only there because of the dance class. Kathy Watkin runs 7 classes on a Saturday, with about 15 kids in each, and I see other parents doing the same as me. If half of them shop a bit like me then that’s more than £1000 spent on South Road rather than somewhere else. For me this is not intentionally helping local businesses, it’s just that putting all these services together, with child care and child stimulation, offers me better value, better convenience and a better quality of life on a Saturday morning than any other option.

We are fortunate, on an otherwise very average street, to still have a few good shops, and it is notable how precariously they survive, dependent upon each other, just about holding a web of possible linked trips together. Like the rollercoaster at Liverpool ONE it is the extra things, dance classes on South Road, that can give a place a helping hand .

All this is but just one of a whole range of issues which need to be considered. No doubt Mary will work all of this out, and as she concluded her interview ‘If you get really savvy, together, councils who understand the importance of regeneration in the towns then they will be looking at the community, understanding what their needs are’. ....

South Road is a finely balanced marginally surviving economy, and our council is just about to introduce car parking charges.……..