Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

If Only Mary Portas Understood About The High Street

Mary Portas tells us all that the High Street must be redesigned. The mistake being who it should be re- or even designed by. As Jane Jacobs kept trying to tell us the urban environment is emergent, not imposed. Or rather, urban environments that work for us human being are that.

The collapse of three major chains last week has put 30,000 retail jobs at risk and triggered fears for the future of town centres. But the picture isn’t all bleak, according to experts including the former government retail tsar, Mary Portas, who says there is too much nostalgia and too little optimism about the future of the British high street.

“The days of stacking stuff high and selling it fast are completely and utterly over,” says Portas, who has worked in retail for more than 40 years. “The brands that dominated did that for years and they failed to offer anything beyond mediocrity. Does anyone really miss BHS? Does anyone care about Dorothy Perkins?”

All of that’s true. The interesting question is, well, what next? The correct answer is “We dunno”. There are lots of people with idea, no doubt about that, but what we require is some system of sorting through said ideas to find the ones that work.

“We’re looking at a whole new generation who aren’t going to prop up the likes of Philip Green any more,” says Portas. “They’re not supporting businesses who don’t prioritise people or the planet. We’re moving away from that: there is a new value system at play.”

Well, that’s interesting, Certainly some do. Body Shop exists, so does Lush. Then again so does Primark, meaning that there isn’t one monolithic bloc of desires out there.

So, who is it that should be making the decisions about what works and what doesn’t then?

Research routinely shows that sustainability, innovation and standing for something aren’t just buzzwords for marketers, but the keys to building brand loyalty among younger customers who demand that the companies they buy from show social responsibility.

And there’s our problem. Research does indeed show this and bully for research. Because that reality out there isn’t quite so insistent on the point. Boohoo got caught using some dodgy suppliers. An ethical disaster in fat. Less than minimum wage at some suppliers. The stock dropped. As it turned out the young, ethical, consumers couldn’t give a toss. They kept buying those £1 bikinis by the truckload.

So, retail will be dominated by ethical concerns will it? The answer being no, it won’t. This will be as true of physical as online. Retail will be dominated by what consumers want. Not, as it happens, by what they say they want nor even by what the upper middle classes say they should want. But by what people are willing to splash the cash upon and that’s a lot less in tune with fashionable worries than most assume.

0 0 vote
Article Rating
Total
0
Shares
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
9 Comments
Oldest
Newest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Boganboy
Boganboy
4 months ago

You do have a point Tim. With me, it’s all about me. I have this I-am-God-the-sun-shines-out-ot-my-arse complex, so if I get good service from a shop, I keep on going back there.

Indeed I can’t remember whether I’ve been going to my local chemist for 20 or 30 years.

Esteban
Esteban
4 months ago

I always wonder whether the authors of these types of articles really believe that a meaningful percentage of consumers are that woke or if they just think if enough of them keep saying it businesses will fall for it. Always want to ask the Robert Reich types why they aren’t actually in business somewhere putting their great ideas to work, making a lot of money and proving that this is the better way.

decnine
decnine
4 months ago

The world has stopped being one big niche (if it ever was so). Now, it is lots of small niches. And all of them are highly perishable because consumers are fickle. IMHO.

Spike
Spike
4 months ago

Hold Page One! I too demand that the marketplace be re-made, just to suit me!

Portas claims that the failure of old retailers proves her assertion that we need her new vision, but in fact it proves that this “creative destruction” is the perfect cauldron for new visions. As for her new vision, how laughable that the criteria have come down to “sustainability,” which was never threatened by exhaustion of resources (provided prices can vary) so much as it was by the Next Big Thing.

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
4 months ago
Reply to  Spike

She’s just doing some drawbridge pulling up. What’s the bet (I couldn’t be arsed to research) that in her early plundering years she couldn’t give a rat’s about planets or social justice.

jgh
jgh
4 months ago

I think this is my main thrust when I’m on my parish planning committee. Try to ensure that developments are done in a way that if they fail somebody else can do something there. Go bust, but don’t leave an unusable bomb site behind.
My ancestors built their Meeting House as a general purpose box, it’s now a restaurant, and still looks the dignified building it was originally. The Methodists over the road built a grand crenelated edifice. It’s now sat there still soaring majestically into the sky but empty.

MrKing
MrKing
4 months ago
Reply to  jgh

We recycle them as mosques “Up North”.

John B
John B
4 months ago

It would help if people understood how the ‘high street’ came about. The coaching road through a town/village. The road around which dwellings were clustered. The road on which markets were held and to which out of towners came. These conditions do not exist anymore. People live in suburbs and estates well away from the high street, people have the mobility of cars, there is out of town shopping and now shopping on line. Trying to invigorate the high street is like trying to invigorate quill pens and ledgers. The way to invigorate them is to allow premises to be… Read more »

Michael van der Riet
Michael van der Riet
4 months ago
Reply to  John B

Or to be pulled down and turned into a distribution centre, or the parking lot of the local young adult hook-up spot.

Can you help support Continental Telegraph?

If you can spare a few pounds you can donate to our fundraising campaign below. All donations are greatly appreciated and go towards our server, security and software costs. 25,000 people per day read our sites and every penny goes towards our fight against the Establishment. We don't take a wage and do what we do because we enjoy it and hope our readers enjoy it too.


Donate
9
0
Would love your thoughts, please comment.x
()
x