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Portas can be the retail matchmaker

Lauretta Roberts

Following the rallying call from the self-styled Queen of Shops, Mary Portas, in her BBC documentary on the state of the British high street last week, multiples and indies already seem to be embracing the idea of working together.

This week, menswear multiple Moss Bros revealed its desire to open hire departments within independent stores, which could boost trade at some struggling smaller retailers, and industry bodies Skillsmart Retail and the British Shops and Stores Association have backed the idea of joint ventures.

There is no question that a diverse mix of retailers on the high street makes for a healthier trading environment, as the retailers of Dorset town Bridport can testify (see News Analysis, page 10). It keeps the consumer interested and excited and coming back for more, instead of staying at home shopping from their armchair, if they’re still inspired to spend at all.
Sharing expertise between multiples and indies will keep the high street fresh and make for more viable businesses. Indies could, for instance, benefit from multiples’ training and technology infrastructures and multiples can benefit from indies’ creativity and strong service culture. There is much to be gained on both sides.

But for such an initiative to be really successful the landlords need to get on board too. All too often we see indies priced out of prime locations and replaced with mobile phone shops and supermarkets, or perhaps worse replaced with nothing at all, leaving depressing void units.

If anyone can galvanise them into action, it must be the formidable Ms Portas.

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