Sunday, January 29, 2012

Marple shops in 2012

There is very little to disagree with in the major findings of the Mary Portas review of High Streets. And the points in her recommendations about public consultation and compulsory purchase powers over empty shops are of particular interest. Much of the underlying problems, however, are caused not by estates management, but an economic imbalance between the numbers of retail units and the amount of money in the economy that people want to spend in shops.

My eldest son and I had a lovely coffee and teacake in Portobello recently, the newish cafe on Market Street. I admire the courage of the owners, especially with plenty of local competition - particularly with Costa opening on Stockport Road.

Thoughts quickly turned to how the ideas Mary Portas has expressed may play out in our community, in particular in Marple centre. On one hand there are empty shops and new businesses trying to make a go of it with wafer thin margins. On the other hand there are ever more plans to bring in new supermarkets to increase the space to shop in and a proliferation of national brands.

The discussion on the Marple website about the recent opening of Costa and the plans for Chadwick Street, as well as Hibbert Lane, have been categorised by rumour and bickering - just as it does in cafe's homes and pubs, I expect - but the misinformation is damaging and counter productive.

So, good luck to Portobello, good luck too to everyone prepared to give it a go. It is for their sake that we must continue to oppose Asda, but we also have to be grown up enough to ask - what else would work around here? What are we lacking? This is a truly important time, we must not waste it.


@thepiepolice said...

The people of Marple have shown tremendous strength and tenacity in the campaign to save our high street. I'm so proud to be part of a community that pulls together in this way. Howvever, I cant help thinking though that placard-waving will only get us so far. With or without the Tesco development, the local traders are in trouble and there are no immediate signs of recovery.

I admire and respect the traders for having the determination to open businesses in the town. It must be terrifying to know that the survival of your family depends on its success. That said, I wonder sometimes whether some of these enterprises have really been thought through, and do our local traders need more support and advice in setting up new businesses.

Your example, The Portabello - a wonderful new cafe on the High Street. I have no idea how good the trade is, but why open another cafe in the town (in a recession) when we have so many? Same goes for Cherry Tree cafe. Did anyone do a business plan?

All Things Nice - an amazing delicatessen with ambition to grow and diversify. Why do they have no online presence? Not even a free Twitter account?

Fish Massage Spa (now closed) - Did they really think the people of Marple needed that?

I dont wish to sound critical and patronising, but its clear that if Marple Shops are to beat this recession there needs to be more focus on the commercial aspects of the High Street. There may be a role here for the Marple Business Forum or even a mentorship scheme with local business leaders providing free advice and support?

Regardless of the outcome of the supermarket development, when the protestors go home, the traders will still be there trying to get the books to balance.

James said...

I'm sorry but I disagree with the compliments about Portobello. It is overpriced for what you get. I visited yesterday and ordered a cajun chicken sandwich for £4.90 or £4.60. I also ordered a diet coke.

First, it took around 20mins just to get the drink - then I observed the staff taking sliced bread from a bag and salad from a bag, both clearly purchased from the supermarket, and making me up a sandwich.

I did the classic British thing and ate it - however, I left feeling pretty much ripped off.

The good news is I also went to Claudio's down the road - a French patisserie. The baker their makes everything on site and at a reasonable price. I bought pieces of freshly made quiche at £1.50 per slice. Plus I bought freshly baked bread and some cakes. Which all made for a great evening meal.

So there you have it, the two sides of Marple.