Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Who needs Mary Portas

It's not that I have anything against Mary Portas per se, but this trend for "gurus" ( used to be linked with transcendential meditation etc,") who are so expert that they can tell us what we already know.
Almost the whole of the population knows what is wrong with our town centres and villages and cities. The small, interesting, customer friendly shops are disappearing from the centres in favour of out of town supermarkets because it has become increasingly difficult to compete. We are told that this is because it is what the consumer wants. It is not the case, it is more that this is what is thrust upon the consumer by the culture that has developed around shopping practice.
Quick, easy and cheap seem to be the drivers in this increasingly frantic society that we live in. While that may be the case for those in employment, and those who are juggling family with jobs, but is is not necessarily true for the increasing population of elderly people.
Many would prefer the small friendly shops - remember when you could find someone to talk to about the things you want to buy?
The major causes for the demise of smaller, local shops are parking fees ( free in supermarkets ), rents (far too high ) and business rates. There are other factors such as crime that will come into the equation but the first 3 I mention are all controllable.
Parking fees for shopping MUST be reduced or abolished as this creates unfair competition for the supermarkets. Rents need to be controlled, and if necessary, by commercial legislation to ensure that rents represent reasonable return on investment rather than the "going rate" which is hiked up by blatant profiteering. Business rates should be much more reasonably balanced with normal rates and not used in a punitive way to squeeze extra from the commercial sector, thereby relieving the burden on the voting public.
The silent majority could play a part in shifting the emphasis from the major chains to smaller establishments by voting with their feet, but they need to be educated in the dangers that are on the horizon for continuing their current the pattern of buying.

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