Is there something about Mary?
The big news on the High Street last month was the government announcement that retail expert Mary Portas has been asked to lead an independent review into the future of the High Street in England. She will look at the problem of empty shops and the growth of ‘clone towns’ dominated by national chain-stores. According to Mary, town centre vacancy rates have doubled over the past two years and she estimates that more than a third of city centre shops will be boarded up over the next two years.
Most of the comments posted on Mary’s website in response to this news have been pretty negative, with rent and rates, parking fees and the ubiquitous supermarket developments being the top three villains and getting the majority of the blame for the declining state of the nation’s High Street.
I must admit that I’d never heard of Mary until she appeared on our TV screens a couple of years ago and I did enjoy her recent television series, it was very entertaining. What we must remember, however, is that this, her latest project, is a review; Mary Portas cannot singlehandedly save the High Street! The corporate giants, chain-stores, supermarkets and out of town shopping centres are not going to disappear, even if Mary waggles her bejewelled fingers at them.
It is fantastic to have such a high profile spokesperson championing the Independent Retailers but we have to be prepared to save ourselves.
The existence of a strong and diverse independent retail sector on our High Street is essential to it’s [the high street] continued success and crucial for the local economy. Money spent in a local business is more likely to circulate within the local economy and more local income creates more local wealth and hopefully, more local employment.
Independents can offer a high level of customer service and build strong relationships with their clients. This is highly valued and helps foster appreciation and loyalty. We have the ability to adapt and innovate and respond to local needs and issues.The personal nature of independent retail means that our customers trust us.
The city of Bath is not immune from the recession and there have been some notable independent casualties but there are also some real heroes out there who, like us, are making changes with focus and determination and not through fear and concern. We remain positive, proactive, play to our strengths and most importantly offer first class customer service.
Mary, we will not sit back and wait for you to save us but please come and visit Bath. You can enjoy an award-winning sandwich, accompanied by a sublime cup of coffee made by an award-winning Barista, whilst reading a book chosen for you by an award-winning bookshop owner...and in that time Moss of Bath will have delivered and expertly installed a new television for you in time for the next brilliant Queen of Shops series.