LAST NIGHT’S TELLY: DAVID CALLAM, the former local newspaper business editor, reviews the opening episode of Mary Queen of the High Street, the Channel 4 series that spawned £2.7 million-worth of public grants, and poses an important question about her business involvements in Croydon
She came, she saw, and frankly, she had very little new to offer.
Mary Portas walked up and down Roman Road in east London not saying very much of note and repeating herself after every ad break, presumably to fill time. The stuff about better presentation and a wider variety of street food have both been tried in Surrey Street in Croydon, without any game-changing success.
And Portas’s destination shopping solution – turn an overstuffed junk shop into an overpriced junk shop – is hardly what we might expect from one of the country’s foremost authorities on retailing.
If Portas can’t do better, there is nothing better to do. She did make an important point – not new, but telling – about treating the market like a business and choosing stalls to reflect the prospective customer profile.
Between the local authority, with its sacred waiting list, and established traders, with entrenched attitudes, if you seek such radical change, beware low-flying pigs.
I wonder if Portas abandoned TV work with Surrey Street because it’s a more hopeless case than Roman Road, or because she has a conflict of interest in Croydon?
Portas’s consultancy, Yellow Door – now re-branded Portas – is an adviser to Westfield, the principal development partner in the £1 billion town centre remodelling.
She will be telling Westfield and its partner Hammerson how to attract the maximum number of visitors to a concentrated section of the town centre. Dwell time is crucial: they will want their punters to shop, rest and play in their complex – 18 hours a day, seven days a week – leaving thin pickings for the rest of the town centre, let alone the borough’s secondary and tertiary shopping parades.
I could see many of the restaurants in South End being attracted by lucrative offers to relocate or to open second outlets in the new complex. The developers have deep pockets so they can afford to offer generous rent- and service-free periods as well as a significant marketing budget.
Croydon will be Hammersfield just as surely as Purley is Tesco.
- Inside Croydon: For comment and analysis about Croydon, from inside Croydon – 267,670 page views (Nov 2012-Apr 2013)
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