London’s Borough Market continues to show mainstream retailers what is possible with a good serving of thought and pride.
The recent terrorist attack at London Bridge will never be forgotten and rightly so.
Head for Borough Market at present, just to the south of the bridge, and while there is a sombre mood amid the donated flowers and countless messages of condolence, it is business as usual following an 11-day closure that finished on June 14.
This is equally appropriate and while, according to one stallholder, tourists have been thinner on the ground than normal for this time of year (“It’s mostly locals”, as she put it), artisan cheesemongers, fishmongers and a host of other ‘mongers’ are getting on with things.
There are those who say that the market has become more of a tourist magnet than a place to buy provisions.
“Supermarket retailers should make the trek ‘sarf of the river’ to Borough Market just to get a feel for what might be done in their stores”
Yet a quick walk around this large and sprawling destination, with the mix of semi-permanent stalls, designer shops and eateries that line its perimeter, reveals that more than ever this is what good food – and its display – is all about.
Visitors can while away the hours eating anything from oysters to pulled pork while enjoying a glass or two, but there are also serious purveyors of provender as well.
Une Normande a Londres, one of the stalls in this market with a semi-permanent site, shows what is possible with cheese and the right props when it comes to visual merchandising.
Pendant lights that look like milk churns with the bottoms knocked out of them set the rustic scene, reinforcing the fresh-from-the-farm idea that comes from tables covered with gingham check and piled high with French cheese.
Were shoppers to examine the products closely, they would probably work out that much of what is on offer comes from nowhere near Normandy, but that really isn’t the point.
Instead, a feast of plenty makes this an eye-catcher. It is emblematic of much that can be seen in this market, whether it’s shellfish, meat or fruit and veg.
Supermarket retailers should make the trek ‘sarf of the river’ to Borough Market, just to get a feel for what might be done in their stores.
And it is worth doing this regularly as tenants change, as do the methods of display that make this as much a leisure activity as it is about selling ambitiously priced food.
While Borough Market’s renown centres on market stalls for the well-heeled and those wishing to take a break from inner-city life, it is also a force as far as permanent retail is concerned.
Wander around its periphery and there is a highly diverse series of stores, ranging from Borough Kitchen that describes itself as “a rigorously curated collection of kitchen tools and tableware”, to Aesop, the aspirational Aussie skincare merchant.
What is noteworthy is the manner in which the shops have been designed to be a blend of store and market.
“Borough Market proves that market trading and more mainstream retail can work profitably side-by-side”
Rabot 1745 is a case in point. This is a restaurant, bar and shop and it looks and feels like a very respectable rough-and-ready indie that trades in all things cocoa related.
It is actually an outpost of Hotel Chocolat – the powers that be at Borough Market are at pains to avoid looking as if they are a location for national chains.
With the exception of the ill-fated Canadian fashion outfit Kit & Ace, which left here amid a raft of international store closures, Borough Market proves that market trading and more mainstream retail can work profitably side-by-side.
But the people thronging Borough Market’s stalls and shops may not be there to purchase goods.
Sitting on the pavement eating a pulled pork wrap with chilli sauce is part of the experience of visiting this location.
Owners of large shopping centres seeking to increase shopper dwell times could do worse than provide their customers with the opportunity to spend a couple of hours buying not very much.
It is entirely possible for a day out to be spent at Borough Market – for time to be considered well spent and to come away with nothing.
As an increasingly important aspect of retail, the leisure provision here is at the vanguard of what is possible, from street food to fine dining.
Open Daily – limited market on Monday and Tuesday
Founded Circa 11th century
Reason for visiting A real food experience
Highlight Une Normande a Londres
No comments yet