Sunday, January 11, 2009

Free Market Economics - Credit Crunch Style

For sometime people have been bemoaning the fact that Sutton High Street struggles to compete with the size of Croydon and the more upmarket Kingston and Epsom for shopping. With little direction for so many years, major retailers saw little benefit in coming to Sutton.

Before Christmas, I thought that it was a sign of the times that a Pound shop could be undercut by a "99p" shop. The pictures opposite show the two stores proudly sitting as bookends at the top and bottom of the High Street respectively.

Now, however, a Pound shop in Poole has closed down due to the competition from a 99p store that recently opened opposite. There are plenty of vacant shops in Sutton. Anyone fancy opening a lucrative 98p store? I'll nip down to the bank and get a few bags of 2p pieces for change.

9 comments:

martin said...

I'm glad you've pointed this out Paul. I also noticed these downmarket shops popping up in Sutton high street. It is indeed a sign of the times.

The high street is rapidly deteriorating in quality. All you see is mobile phone shops, Costa coffee, Starbucks x 2, and 'Spinna Winner'.

The less said about the bottom of the high street the better.

The St. Nicholas Shopping Centre has a very poor selection of retail outlets.

What can be done to rectify this terminal decline? Because I, for one, think it's a great shame.

RFK said...

Martin makes a very good point. What can be done to make Sutton a great place to shop? It has some good shops - and I must admit I quite like Cafe Nero and the variety of coffee shops, I think the High Street would be worse without them. However, I think the fact that New Look and Next will probably consume the whole of the St Nicholas Centre says it all.

This actually started quite a few years ago when a series of shops closed. I wonder what rates local stores are charged and if this is what keeps independent stores away and prevents a better variety of chains coming to the area?

scott nugent said...

to be fair, its not just sutton high street that is declining, look at wallington and worcester park, they are dying on their feet.

martin your right about Spin a Winner and the others, theyare ugly and make the high street look really tacky. or tackier!
Shopping in Sutton is not an attractive option because of the poor parking facilities too
something needs to be done about that.

RFK said...

Scott,

It really is astounding that it costs more to park in Sutton than it does in Kingston.

Maybe it's time for a 99p car park...

Scully said...

Comments about Wallington and Worcester Park are right. More needs to be done to identify the essential character of those business centres and what people actually want. Then the Council can encourage flagship retailers to invest. We can't have a statist central plan but residents should be able to affect the outcome.

Again, Sutton's woes are partly down to failing to engage with residents and it starts with some small things.

Allders used to have the site now occupied by Waterstone's and All Bar One. When it moved to become the flagship store of the new St Nicholas Centre, it was too small. Each department had limited space and so limited stock when compared to Allders in Croydon. Therefore if you wanted to shop in Allders it made sense to go to Croydon. Now there is a House of Fraser in Croydon as well, Sutton is less attractive still. The new Next store suffers from the same problem. It is more high profile than the old shop but is limited.

Asda was brought in to refresh the dire north end of the High Street. However parking is pay and display, with the ability to claim the cash back if you shop in the store. This means that you need a ready supply of loose change before going. Morrisons at the top and any number of out of town supermarkets don't have this.

I could go on. These things may appear small and petty but imagine people that develop regular shopping patterns. The above examples have certainly affected the habits of people that I know. There are, of course plenty of things that can be done at a higher macro level, but it does illustrate the point that town planning is more than just a few charts.

Bob Briant said...

It wasn't so many months back that I got jumped on for remarking here - as well as in a subsequent letter to Paul Martin - that available data and a consultant's report commissioned by the council do not sustain a popular local myth that the Borough of Sutton is unusually affluent:
http://paulscully.blogspot.com/2007/10/business-questions.html

The most likely explanation for the character of the shops on the high street is that these probably reflect the relative affluence of Sutton residents and their shopping preferences.

Scully said...

Bob

Looking back at the conversation, I'm glad that it wasn't me doing the jumping. Instead, our erstwhile UKIP councillor was giving us the benefit of some in depth analysis.

The point that you make is an interesting one. Only this week, the GMB union came out with figures that showed that the average income in Sutton was below that of the UK never mind London. The actual figures bore no relation to any that I have seen before but I suspect that the ratio with other areas may well be more accurate.

A lot of people do come into Sutton from elsewhere to shop. Having stood in all weathers on the High Street trying to find someone who qualifies to sign various petitions, I've discovered the hard way quite how many people come from Banstead, Ewell and further afield. Nonetheless, the average local income will be a factor.

Wimbledon has just been named as the High Street in London with the most "clone" shops. Residents have a reasonable average income as far as I can tell but it is laid out dreadfully.

We can't radically turn Sutton into an upmarket shopper's paradise but with a little planning, forethought and lobbying we can improve the High Street significantly.

Bob Briant said...

Paul, I'm unconvinced that focusing just on improving the mix of shops in local high streets is a fruitful approach although I fully agree that there are valid reasons for concern and that the reasons were there and evident before the credit crunch tightened or the dive in the national economy in the third quarter of last year.

FWIW I think policy considerations need to extend to the mix of local employment opportunities generally as well as to prospects for attracting inward investment to the borough as and when the national economy improves.

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