Friday, June 27, 2014

Mary, Queen of (Boarded up) Shops

A large portrait of Mary Portas adorns a lamp post in our nearest town. 
Portas, you may remember, is the self-styled Queen of Shops, a retail "expert" who is often seen on television advising independent shopkeepers on what they are doing wrong. She has also been appointed by the government to tell selected towns how they can revitalise their shopping centres.
So, our town has been designated a Pontius Pilate Town. No, sorry, Portas Pilot, that'll be it.
A couple of dozen UK towns are entitled to a visit from Mary, to tell them how they can improve their retail offering. Oh, and the government will bung them a few quid for a few paving stones, some hanging baskets or something.
Now we shouldn't dismiss any schemes that help people make a living or be cynical about any ideas that might one day lead to job creation, but a look around this particular town reveals little of cheer.
If, from her viewpoint on the lamp post, Mary was able to glance to her right, she would see a boarded up shop - and this is in the very heart of the town. Chain stores proliferate and independents are few and far between. 
Marks and Spencer came here about ten years ago and closed about five years later. Next month, the company will open an out-of-town store about two miles outside the centre.
All doom and gloom, then? 
Well, there might be a glimmer of hope. Sort of...
For, just around the corner from Mary's lamp post, a shop is reopening. Now that's cause for cheer, surely? 
Would it be a delicatessen full of tasty treats, or a hardware shop staffed by knowledgeable chaps who can tell a screw from a nail? 
No such luck. The latest store to be opening is, depressingly, an estate agent. Just what we need, more shiny suited individuals hyping up the property market. 

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