Remember the days when Kingfisher practically owned the high street? It seems that, once it was broken up, some of the brands just couldn’t survive without that corporate centre run by Sir Geoff Mulcahy.

Remember the days when Kingfisher practically owned the high street? It seems that, once it was broken up, some of the brands just couldn’t survive without that corporate centre run by Sir Geoff Mulcahy.

He was a world-class retailer and a source of some of the best retail business thinking. So, I was not surprised to hear the news that Comet had gone into administration.

It’s a shame for the staff and of course its customers, but it is obvious that Comet simply failed to grasp the fact that bricks and mortar has to offer something really special to survive the onslaught of internet retailing, especially in its space.

Even though the retailer was one of the first on the high street to embrace the internet, it just was not enough.

I am always on the lookout for new retail concepts but it seems that, in recent years, all of the new thinking has been poured into online ventures, software start-ups or app developers.

It’s big business and I understand the appeal, but I still believe that there’s scope for developing ideas for a new type of store that you can actually go into and that offers you experience as well as goods to buy.

I was fascinated to discover TechShop recently. This started in California (the brainchild of Jim Newton and Ridge McGhee in 2006) and I dearly hope that one day it will find its way to the UK. 

TechShop is ideal for anyone with a good idea for a product who wants a place, with equipment and expertise on hand, where they can develop their idea and take it into the material world. 

For a monthly or yearly subscription fee – a bit like a gym – people can go to one of 20 TechShop workshops in the US and be trained to use machines and tools to build whatever they have in mind from scratch.

As Sir James Dyson would attest, “our lifeblood is inventing”. British people must be some of the most inventive and entrepreneurial in the world.

I am in agreement with Chris Anderson, editor of the US edition of Wired magazine and author of Makers: The New Industrial Revolution, who predicts that companies will break away from older methods of manufacturing and move to more individual, low-cost models.

Another aspect of this appetite for invention is a desire for education and experiment. We Brits love learning how to do things. For example, Waitrose is running cookery classes above its store on Finchley Road, London, which appeals to this desire.

And, when you look at the popularity of TV shows such as The Great British Bake Off, Scrapheap Challenge, Robot Wars and so on, it’s obvious that we love having a go at making things.

So, my challenge to retailers is to embrace this idea of bringing teaching into their operations. And I can’t wait to see who will be a brave retailer and open a British version of TechShop in their store.

  • Moira Benigson, managing partner, MBS Group