High Streets may have empty units, but it may be their own fault.
Let’s hear it for the high street. That, or a version of it, is a mantra that must have been recited across the land by small shopkeepers everywhere. The logic runs something like this. Big chains are evil, so we’ll keep them out and then small independent shopkeepers will be able to thrive and everything will be lovely.
It’s a fairly middle class nimbyish view of retailing, but it is one that seems to have traction in numerous locations.
Now consider Primrose Hill. Primrose Hill? Isn’t that the place where film stars and major league celebs (and the Retail Week Stores editor) live and doesn’t it have a high street filled with independents? Up to a point Lord Copper. The point is that it is changing. Leases are due for renewal and there are a number of units that now stand empty.
Then along comes beauty chain Space NK, which you might imagine would fit well with the local demographic. Not at all. Some local shopkeepers and residents have created a petition to keep this ‘big’ business from taking a unit.
Yesterday, Primrose Hill had its annual Christmas Fair, where traders take stalls along the length of Regents Park Road (aka Primrose Hill high street) and offer their carefully curated wares. Space NK wisely decided to take a stall as a peace offering and to prove that it is not the enemy, going so far as to offer its takings to the local community library. The library, which is cash-strapped, said it did not want them - presumably fearing the local wrath, perhaps because it is manned by those opposed toe the retailer’s impending appearance.
So what’s the probable outcome - an empty unit or a third charity shop? This is how pettifogging, small-minded ‘independent’ thinking can operate and it means decline instead of growth. For what it’s worth, locals should consider themselves lucky that Waitrose has not cast its corporate eye over the area and realised that this would be a good place to install a Little Waitrose. It would do well and it might do something about the unwholesome proliferation of tea and cupcake shops along the strip, as well as raising standards generally in the area.
Meanwhile, Space NK opens on Regents Park Road on December 8.