October 03rd, 2011 | Tags: Mary Portas

Mary, let's talk.

I was watching Mary Portas on the telly recently. She’s been asked by the Government to advise on what can be done to regenerate our town centres.

And good luck to her. Because they’re definitely losing their distinctiveness and sleepwalking towards a single ‘one size fits all’ look (although I was in Cologne in the summer and was taken aback with how much their high street looks like some of ours- we even had lunch in Pizza Hut; so this isn’t just an English problem).

Anyway, she was asked for her summary of what could or should be done to save these town centres and her answer was absolutely spot on: focus on what makes them unique.

Think about it for a moment.

Ever been to Padstow? Pretty hard to replicate that anywhere else. Or Windsor? Ditto. How about the two Henleys (Arden and Thames)? The same.

And it’s exactly the same with our cities.

What makes London unique? The absolute focus on being Number One (biggest financial centre in the World, the seat of Government, the home of democracy, etc)

Manchester? The overwhelming emphasis on change and pushing the boundaries (when Darwin unveiled his ‘Origin of Species’ he didn’t think London could take it, so opted for Manchester instead. Brilliant).

Birmingham? Sheer entrepreneurial hard work- the original ‘city of a thousand trades’

It’s the same with every town and city in the country; it just needs some digging to discover the true essence of each place.

So, given these unique histories each town and city possesses, what about if the council got involved with local retailers and started a dialogue about building their uniqueness? About working together to carve out an utterly distinctive offer that you could ONLY find there?
The result?

Building on strengths rather than becoming a me-too; tick. Tourism; tick. Local pride: tick. A thriving economy: absolutely.

Message to Mary: like it, you’re spot on.

City pics