Saving the High Street

How many reports do we need to read about saving the High Street, before some sensible action that might actually work takes place. Having worked for a High Street retailer who faced the Out and Edge of Town Threat, I saw first hand some of the things that could be done to help revitalise our city and town centres.

The dash to Out of Town shopping happened under a Tory Government. Retailers moved to premises out of town with free parking that were convenient to shoppers with cars. Today those retail outlets have effectively become localised monopolies. So you will get your Tesco or other massive retailer out of town, and because the planning system has clamped down on these types of development – no other retailer can compete in that geographical location. Not a good situation.

Now the retailer I worked for was primarily high street based. We recognised that people now went shopping in their car as a general rule. The number of people who say they should support their local baker, butcher and local shop, yet don’t because it’s easy to do a one stop shop at a supermarket, in a car, far outweigh those who follow through their warm words and support local shops.

We always used to us the example of a tube of toothpaste. Lets say it costs the same price in both an out of town and town centre shop. Price isn’t an issue is it? Well it is when you have to pay £2.00 to park in town yet out of town it’s free. That tube of toothpaste is now £2.00 more in a town centre location.

Where I live, it used to be free to park on a Sunday. Not many shops were open, but generally most Sundays we would pop into town, by a paperm have a copy and a browse. They changed the pricing (in Newark). The cost to park on a Sunday is the same as  a weekday. So what do we d. We drive all the way to Lincoln, where parking still costs – but there is much more choice.

Then you can look at Chesterfield where I was born. Parking also used to be free – but they have now introduced a charge – £1 all day. So a nominal fee. So I will shop there.

Three towns with three different parking structures and they all impact and where I spend my money. I don’t go into my local town centre on a Sunday, as they don’t have the sense to introduce a charging sytem that either is discounted on a Sunday or where (like some places) if you pay to park you can get it knocked off local purchases. I drive to Lincol where they do charge knowing there is lots more choice and more things open, and I even go to Chesterfield where parking is a nominal fee.

Of the three town centres, my local one, in my estimation, has got it wrong, and is inflicting damage on itself. Yet the real threat to them all is I can drive to any out of town destination (Meadowhall) and there is no charge.

The answer isnt to charge for out of town spaces, but for town centres to realise that people have choices and if they are to compete they need to encourage people back into them – not push them away somewhere else.

Yes the High Street needs to be saved – but it needs to do something to save itself.

Update:- This is how bad things are for small retailers

Weather update…. global warming ends in Newark

Further to my weather blog post below. Today my stone was covered in white, along with the back lawn, as hail pounded down here in Newark.

When its hot it’s down to global warming, when we have storms which dump hail on us when its nearly August no doubt that’s global warming too.

Sorry not convinced about that.

100 percent chance of weather today

I sat in my office at home today and watched the rain come down all day. Not a sliver of blue sky. Completely grey. Quite cold, and typical weather if it was October.

That’s why I find this story so amusing.  Sorry but I distinctly remember being told that this Summer we would experience an unusally hot Summer with plenty of sunny weather. Yes we had a bit in June (I delivered election leaflets outside for 5 weeks) but the rain has been here for some time.

I don’t expect perfection but when we are told that the forecast, “generally fairly accurate” it makes me laugh. I can be fairly accurate. Today there will be a 50% chance of rain. Well it’s true every day. Either it will rain or it won’t. So I claim my job as a meteorologist!

Perhaps the Met should all invest in the best weather prediction method I know. A stone on a string.

Hang it outside and check the weather as follows:-

Stone wet :- It’s Raining

Stone dry:- Not Raining

Shadow on Ground:- Sunny

White on Top:- Snowing

Can’t see Stone:- Foggy

Swinging Stone:- Windy

Stone Jumping up and Down:- Earthquake

Stone Gone:- Hurricane/Tornado

Better than Michael Fish?

Better than Michael Fish?

Is tw*t a naughty word?

So there isn’t anything important for the media to write about. I mean, we are only involved in armed conflict in Afghanistan, but the world should shudder to a halt because David Cameron used the word tw*t on a radio show.

The debate has started as to whether it’s a naughty word. Well from where I come from up North it is. If you called me a tw*t you may experience the verb to be tw*tted as I would take grave offence.

Now having said that I do believe words can be less offennsive in the context that they are used. David Cameron was not calling an individual a tw*t. He just used the word, and didn’t use it with any malice, so in that respect there is no story.

Esther Rantzen and the cat……

The next MP for Luton South. Get stuffed!!…. the cat I mean of course!

Esther Rantzen embarks on vanity project

So Esther Rantzen has decided to have a little ego trip by letting the world know she is going to stand for Parliament in Luton South. Now I could understand the motive if the sitting MP who became embroiled in the expenses saga was standing again, but she isn’t. So what does Esther want to achieve? What are her policies? Why does she think the people of Luton South want her to represent them? What qualifies her for the role?

All perfectly decent questions. I mean, why don’t we just have a parliament made up of 600 plus B list celebrities. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Would it hell. I hope the good people of Luton South can see through this vanity project and see that a vote for Nigel Huddlestone is the only real way to implement change and get rid of the tired and discredited Government currently clinging on to power for dear life.

EON just stop calling

I took a call from EON the lovely energy company this week. After asking for my wife I asked if I could help. The lady at the end of the phone then went into her clearly well rehearsed script about their central heating and boiler cover, After about 60 seconds I politely said thanks but no thanks.

I noticed the next day there was a missed call from the same number that EON had used to speak to me, but thought nothing further of it.

On Friday – two days after I said no, who should call again but EON so this time we have a bit of fun. Speakerphone goes on and the lady gets to give her full sales pitch to my wife about how it the service will cost something like £14 a month, what it covers and so on.

At the end of it she asks is my wife interested. She says No, and actually we had already said No two days ago. Oh but why, you know it could be very expensive if something goes wrong.

Now that’s where I take exception to this type of thing. It is almost bordering on asking you to sign up to something with menaces. Giving you the impression that if you don’t pay this £14 a month, your boiler could blow up and then what will you do. It could cost you lots of money dear householder and you don’t want that do you!

Well we don’t mind saying No, but if you are elderly and on your own, these kind of sales tactics may just work.

Frankly EON, the reason why we don’t want your cover is none of your business. I may be filthy rich and can afford a new boiler should it go wrong. I may be poor and can’t afford your over priced cover. I may have read some of these reviews and thing your provide  a crappy service.

Or I may have told you No, and just don’t appreciate you calling again and asking for my wife to see if you get a different answer.

 First published at www.partypoliticalanimal.com

We must do more for our armed forces!

I was pleased to read the recent story about the party and the tickets for troops initiative, but surely even more could be done.

Surely there could be some kind of sytem whereeby serving personnel from our armed forces can qualify for special offers, or deals at high street retailers. If organisations can give special deals based solely on age, or if you a re a student for example, then why not a scheme to reward our armed forces personnel.

OK it’s only a little thing, and I’m sure they would much rather have better equipment when they are in a theatre of conflict, but our retailers could do something to show their support for our troops.

So who is going to give the British Retail Consortium a call?

What a result!

Well what a result the Conservatives had in Norwich North. I have to say even I was surprised at the winning margin. Given the campaign it sounds thoroughly deserved. I suspect Chloe Smith won’t have long to get up and running before she has it all to do again in a General Election.

Unless of course Lembit is right, and then it’s not just Gordon Brown is doomed!

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