The cost of high-street parking is a local issue that is a national problem. Rather like the calls for legislation to govern the time and duration of Sales, it is a subject that has resurfaced on a regular basis throughout my 35 years in the business.
I fear a solution is unlikely to materialise any time soon.
Last week’s story about Cardigan in west Wales seeing uplift in local trade when its parking meters were vandalised was picked up by the national media (as the summer silly season fast approaches) and it gave some welcome airtime to this perennial debate (see page 2). It was also a reminder that retailers and other interested parties wishing to achieve change in their vicinity need to plan, organise and execute a smart – and relentless – strategy to persuade the local authorities to amend their parking policies.
If we rule out the option of vandalising parking meters, it behoves traders to put together a case that will persuade civic bureaucrats to try a different system to the expensive and extensive parking regimes that appear to strangle so many local high streets.
The government is making all the right noises, of course, with its recently introduced survey that will tell us just how much local councils are raking in from parking charges. But I have yet to hear of what will be done to any authority that is viewed to be too greedy. I have little faith that naming-and-shaming will bother career politicians.
Their argument, of course, is that parking income is needed to augment the revenue from rates and that they have to consider the needs of the community. This debate has a depressing circularity about it, but I believe the best method to achieve change is for local traders’ groups to assert continued and consistent pressure. Far too many of you have told me over the years “The council don’t listen”, so I’d be delighted to hear from any of you who have won the local argument on relaxing parking fees and restrictions.
Looking further afield, it was interesting to hear this week the global plans that the new owners of Ben Sherman have for the 52-year-old brand (see page 2). Michael
DeVirgilio and Cory Baker of the NYC-based Marquee Brands and their private equity backers have invested the equivalent of £41m in acquiring the loss-making business, but they view it as a bargain given the worldwide potential of the Mods’ favourite. Considering their experience in other licensing and brands arenas, I believe they have the expertise to achieve their ambitious goals, but they will need to spend a lot more money a lot more consistently than Sherman’s previous owners, Atlanta-based Oxford Industries. Trying to build on the cheap is where many brand ventures fail.
It is not often that Drapers quotes bookies’ odds, but we were intrigued that Paddy Power has entered the succession debate at Marks & Spencer following the news that head of merchandise John Dixon is soon to leave (see page 3). His job has been taken by head of food Steve Rowe, who is now the bookmaker’s favourite at 5/1 to take over from Marc Bolland. Although Rowe has done a grand job with food, it is fashion that needs attention in M&S. I share the view of one of the commentators on our website that it is disappointing that no woman has been promoted to replace Dixon. I wonder what womenswear director Frances Russell – who has been in the role for almost three years and has a 30-year career in fashion having joined the Burton Group (now Arcadia) in 1985 as a management trainee – thinks to the latest round of jobs for the boys.