December 13, 2011 by galudwig
So a famous retail adviser and journalist who also happened to be a popular tv-personality was asked by David Cameron to write a report on “the future of high street”. Disregarding the obvious pointlessness of such a venture, let’s see what she had to say.
Britain’s shops and high streets are in crisis due to the economic downturn and the continued growth in the number of out-of-town shopping centres, supermarkets and retail parks, which are attracting custom away from town centres.
However despite highlighting the desperate plight of many town centres, Ms Portas says that her report is not about pointing the “fingers of blame” at large out-of-town supermarkets, who sell everything from food and clothes to flat-screen TVs and DVDs.
Ms Portas, who is best known for her TV show Mary Queen of Shops, also stresses that her report is not about “nostalgia” or turning back the clock. She says that the days of high streets containing a different shop for every need are gone.
Well, that sounds somewhat promising. I hate it when clueless “experts” make “recommendations” to the rest of us on how to make our own decisions.
The report, which is released today, will set out around 30 recommendations to halt the rapid decline of town centres.
And there we go.
Look, if town centres are declining, then there must be a good reason why this is happening. Why exactly do we have to be told by some self-declared expert that we are buying at the wrong places, rewarding the wrong businesses with profits?
Her recommendations are expected to recommend increasing the cost of out-of-town parking to encourage shoppers back into town centres.
Unbelievable this. Thou shalt shop wherever we want thee to shop lest thou payest more for parking. It’s not exactly “encouraging” shoppers back into town centres, is it? More like discouraging shoppers from shopping where they want.
She will also call for an “annual national market day”, that will present “new look” high streets at their finest.
Sure, pour some more money down the drain for feel-good projects. Not like there’s a gigantic crisis looming on the horizon which threatens to wipe out people’s savings. Oh wait..
She is also expected to suggest an easing of the restrictions on night-time deliveries to town-centre shops and market stalls in order to create a more flexible and attractive business environment.
Well, at least this is sensible. But, again, the language masks the true nature of what is going on here. Why do these restrictions exist in the first place? The easing of the restrictions won’t exactly create a more flexible and attractive business environment. Rather, it would decrease the inflexibility and unattractiveness of the business environment brought about by existing government regulations.
Anyway, it seems to me that again and again, problems for which government is deemed the solution were in reality caused by previous government legislation which was, in turn, the answer to previous problems. Instead of looking to government to regulate our behaviour whenever some “expert” declares a problem somewhere, we should allow ourselves the freedom of interacting with one another on a voluntary basis. Surely, problems will most efficiently be solved, if they are to be “solved” at all, by those who are closest and most affected by them, not by some central institution of which its only qualifications are its control of the money supply and its monopoly on the use of violence.