Tuesday, 23 June 2009

Mary Portas - Save Our Shops

Tuesday, 23 June 2009

So, did you watch it on BBC2 tonight? By 'It' I mean Mary Portas presenting The Money Programme, talking about the state of the UK's High Street.
Of course, as the owner of a fledgling gift shop business, I was particularly interested in what she had to say - after all, we all know that the retail industry has taken a hard knock in the recession.
Let's face it - she spent a lot of the programme stating what we shopkeepers already know - that it is bloody hard work at the moment - that the demise of many of the major players on the high street has a knock on effect on everyone else out there - and most importantly, that the media has scared the shit out of customers - making them scared to spend any money at the moment! Do you agree? I know I do.
I'm not upset that she spent a lot of the programme painting this bleak picture - showing empty shops, businesses on the brink of collapse - no, I am glad that she spoke up for us. She effectively did an hour long charity commercial for retailers. She highlighted the plight that we are all in - she didn't do it in a begging style - there was 'please come back to your high street', no order to the public to start spending money again. No, she very clearly showed the effects of the recession, and rather than moaning about it, she tried to empower those local businesses that were struggling to hold on by giving them the tools they need to make their business better than ever. In fact, she did it in the best way possible - she enabled them to come up with their own solutions.
I love Mary Portas (can you tell?).
My experience of the recession has been slightly different to those featured in the programme.
Yes, Letchworth Garden City has suffered as a high street destination. (Indeed, I find it hard to believe it ever was a 'destination' to look at it now.) Woolworth's going was a blow, Marks and Spencer's an even bigger one. We only have a small handful of chain stores to anchor us as a shopping centre. It used to be that you could get everything you needed in our town - you may have had to look hard, but it could be done. These days...not so much.
What Letchworth does have, however, is a fiercely loyal core of customers that know that if they don't use it, they will lose it. The people of Letchworth really do shop politically, choosing organic, locally produced, fair trade and environmentally conscious products whenever possible. It is not a particularly wealthy town - indeed it has a higher percentage of social housing than most due to the 'garden city concept' . But one thing it does have, is an awful lot of heart!
I am not a local. I'm from down the road in St Albans. I struggle with the lack of leisure facilities here (well, by that I mean that there aren't enough pubs for a Snorbenser)But I truly am humbled by the strong sense of community that this little town does show me every day. Not a day goes by when somebody doesn't tell me how glad they are that we (the shop, http://www.roseanddylan.co.uk/ )are here, and still open!

I know it's late at night, and I'm probably being more emotional than is necessary, but I want to thank everyone from Letchworth who has supported us so much in this first year of trading - and everyone from the surrounding areas who make special trips in to see us! Thank you all for shopping locally, supporting small businesses and keeping colour and creativity on your high street!

And so I leave you all with this question - next time you click on to Amazon, Play.com or one of the other internet giants who you know your local independent shop can't match in price - do you want your local high street shops to dissapear? Can they match the locals for service, knowledge, expertise in their field? Can they give you the shopping experience you really want?

Thank you for listening to my rant. I'll try not to do it too often. x

Reblog this post [with Zemanta]


Post a Comment

A gift shop is for life, not just for christmas! © 2008. Design by Pocket