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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Mary Portas' proposals for closed shops. What would a town crier for Wolverhampton be saying?


The announcement that Wolverhampton is to receive £100,000 to help regenerate its centre is welcome news – money for redevelopment always is.  The question is whether the Mary Portas proposals can really counter the longterm flow of retailing to out-of-town sites or the Internet. Once consumers have acquired a taste of how to make their purchases, they tend to want more of the same.

These large and longterm flows in consumer behaviour are likely to go even further.  The reinstatement of retail back into town centres may be like King Canute and the sea. We know why retail moved out and the critical question for the future is: “What are city centres for?”

Now is the time to bring housing back into city centres.  Niche and corner-shop facilities may flourish with a resident population nearby. Continental cafĂ© cultures failed because this was missing. Having a town-crier for the city is an eye-catcher. More importantly, we need to know what the script might be and will there be anyone to listen?