Retail expert Bill Grimsey has published his report this week. It’s based on facts, says Bill, proudly. But for all the facts, the report says nothing new – it’s a rehash of other people’s ideas, and is very similar to the Mary Portas High Street Review that came before it. It takes as its foundation the death of the High Street, and is based on the belief that independent shops should just give up now.
And today Bill’s been Tweeting his praise for Tesco – it’s ‘the real deal’, and ‘Tesco’s Harris + Hoole coffee shop chain has been given licensing approval for cafes. The day out at Tesco is getting better!’.
Bill’s also Tweeted about his pleasure with Primark’s increased profits, saying the ‘consumer cares not where the stuff comes from only price!’
Of course, an alternative view would be that big stores like Primark and Tesco are actually the problem. They’ve championed price over quality or fair working conditions. Tesco have used unpaid work experience placements. And Primark are currently paying compensation to 4000 people after the Rana Plaza sweatshop collapsed in April, leaving over 1100 people dead.
Bill’s unflagging support for Tesco, Primark et al is unsurprising, from a man who’s lived his life in clone town retailers like Iceland. But the comments about Primark are something different. I’m not sure whether they’re ill-considered, or just uncaring.
In any case, maybe we should look for grassroots ways to tackle the problem, from the floorboards up not from the boardrooms down. An alternative view would be that, with the number of independent shops increasing in the last year by over 400 stores, it’s the clone town that’s dying. There’s certainly evidence that the number of empty shops in city centre is falling, while it’s rising in shopping centres and retail parks. So that belief that the high street has a chance is not just nostalgia, Bill; it’s facts.