Azara Blog: Exeter allegedly has a bland high street

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Date published: 2005/06/06

The BBC says:

Cathedral city Exeter has topped a poll to find Britain's blandest high street.

Researchers found chainstores dominated the main shopping street, with just one independent shop out of 50.

Independent think tank the New Economics Foundation (NEF) said the survey showed how Britain's towns were becoming "clone towns".

But Exeter city centre's manager said branding it a "clone town" was unfair on the city which had a wide range of independent stores in other streets.

John Harvey told BBC News: "They must have been surveying a different city centre because it is a picture neither I nor any business people associated with the city would recognise.

"There is street after street with a massive range of small independent stores and Exeter is a shoppers' destination because of the range of interesting stores we have."

He added: "I don't see it as a negative thing to have so-called clone shops.

"Today's independents are tomorrow's chain stores and the shops that thrive are the ones that people spend their money in."

The NEF said 41% of urban centres were clone towns where independently-owned shops were in short supply and 26% risked losing their distinctiveness.
NEF policy director Andrew Simms said: "Clone stores have a triple whammy on communities: they bleed the local economy of money, destroy the social glue provided by real local shops that holds communities together, and they steal the identity of our towns and cities."

The NEF survey is based on 103 national and 27 London surveys completed by members of the public in communities with between 5,000 and 150,000 residents.

The analysis is based on surveys, which were almost certainly obtained with an unscientific (i.e. not random) sample, hence completely worthless. Good on John Harvey for putting NEF (one of the zillions of consultancies afflicted upon the nation) in its place. Only the usual middle class suspects would ever claim that independent stores are somehow inherently superior to chain stores, and no doubt this kind of survey, driven by middle class snobbery, appeared already in the 1970s, 1980s and 1990s and will appear again in the 2010s, 2020s, 2030s, and beyond.

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