Just occasionally you have to go to IKEA. Sometimes it’s for those tea light things (a bag of a 1,000 is essential). Stuff is so cheap you just have to buy it – even if you will never use it again. It’s stuff that might come in useful (apparently).
The place is a baffling myriad of anagrams STURKY, TEGGURKA, GRUQQAR – but it turns out there is a sense of organisation in this too. Inferior products (such as doormats, floor runners, carpeting – basically anything that touches the bottoms of shoes.) are named after Danish towns. Then Swedish town names are handed down to furniture, bookcases and multimedia consoles. Norway bags the beds, dressers and hallway furniture. Finally Finland have the honour of the expensive chairs and dining tables. I kid you not.
IKEA’s spokesperson Charlotte Lindgren responded, “It’s nonsense to say that we did this on purpose. It was a pure coincidence, and it happened many decades ago…Besides these critics appear to greatly underestimate the importance of floor coverings. They are fundamental elements of furnishing.” No shit sherlock.
Being in IKEA is akin to a living nightmare. It’s not just the products – it’s the people. They start their experience by wanting to park as close to the exit as they can – because IKEA don’t have those little pound machines on their trolleys – so they concrete you in. This is a test then to carry their heavy kit a quarter of a mile to your car!
But this is nothing compared to the pain of assembling all those odd shaped screws and washers. The instructions might as well be in Danish. Inevitably you finish the whole thing and are left with three or four screws, dowels of other bits of metal. They grin up at you in a smug way – “we know where we go, but we’re not telling you“.
Should I throw them out – or keep them, just in case the thing falls apart tomorrow?
When I came out I saw the pictured car. Reminded me of my old RS4. As for his parking … Enough said on the matter.
We have ongoing discussions with the Local Data Company and their assertion that 30.6% of our shops are empty. I blogged about it here.
Experian have suggested that the figure is 18.1% – which is probably a closer reflection. The Local Data Company stretch the definition of City Centre to a lot of the outlying suburbs. We have a plan to deal with this and try to properly reflect the position – more on that soon I hope!
What we cannot escape though is that we have too many shops.
Vacant shops don’t help Cities. They create gappy teeth in a street scene and ‘dead frontage’ (as it is known) is not at all good. It takes a few in a row to bring a whole area down.
So we have a few choices – we can either take the shops out of use (and there is some new Planning legislation to do this) and into another use. Or we can try to encourage new shops to spring up. I had a fantastic meeting a few weeks ago with Pop Up Britain – who seek to do this. They put temporary uses into places – often local people selling local goods. Again we hope to have some of these in Nottingham soon.
But there is another initiative launched last week by the City Council – in the form of grant aid to bring ‘out of repair’ shops back to a lettable standard.
The Vacant Shops Grant will be available to Landlords of up to £5,000 to improve the condition a shop.
This is a great idea – and a really positive step to take.
I had the privilege on Friday of visiting the Bentley factory in Crewe, as a guest of Nick Riley – you can read his great blog here.
I have to say that I was taken aback by the whole experience. I thought Crewe was a place you went through on the train. What I didn’t expect was a factory building some of the best quality cars that money can buy on the entire planet!
Bentley have heritage but suffered badly through recessions. At one point they had just 1500 employees – today that number is 4,000. Unlike the Toyota factory in Burnaston, there are people here. Lots of them. And people who have a passion for what they are building. During our three hour tour we spoke to a few of the teams building the cars – this wasn’t staged – they were genuinely passionate about what they do; they were really keen to show us what they did – and the lengths they go to.
These are expensive cars (think £115,00 upwards) but there is a reason for this. An Bentley Continental takes 100 man hours to build – the Mulsanne takes 600 hours. Virtually everything is hand finished – varnishing the woods is robotically done, but is still hand polished. A steering wheel takes 15 hours to hand stitch!
What was really fascinating was trying to work out the logistics of the production line. On the Continental lone it shifts stations every nine minutes, on the Mulsanne line it is one hour! And at each station the components being added are all logged and computer controlled. Parts which started life together (such as the wood inlays) are sent apart to different build elements, but then come back together for a perfect match.
It was a fantastic experience – and I was seriously impressed. Manufacturing is definitely not dead – and 8,500 lovingly crafted cars a year – is testament to that.
PS My fellow blogger Jackie Sadek will no doubt think that I’m after a freebie. This would be shallow. But true. Please Mr Bentley – can I borrow one for a few weeks?
There was disappointing news for Nottingham last week.
Our Heritage Lottery bid to upgrade the Castle failed. We were seeking nearly £15 towards the estimated £26m cost. Six out of 11 projects were successful in sharing £68m:
* Silverstone, home of British motor racing in Northamptonshire
* HMS Caroline, the last surviving warship of the First World War fleet, in Belfast’s Titanic Quarter
* Redruth’s old brewery transformed to celebrate Cornish heritage
* London’s Alexandra Palace – ‘The People’s Palace’ – with over 140 years worth of history
* 12th-century Auckland Castle in Durham, home to a spectacular collection of Zurbaran paintings
* Aberdeen Art Gallery and Cowdray Hall, the city’s public gallery with an impressive collection of early and contemporary works
We now have to wait another 12 months to re-submit.
You may know that I sat on the Sheriffs Commission back in 2008/9. Five years ago we were pressing for the Council to bring on board the private sector, that looks even more necessary now.
I was a little underwhelmed last year when I saw the plans for the first time. In fact, I blogged about it here.
We really need to aim higher and in my opinion we need to bring a different game to Nottingham. There is such an opportunity here – Robin Hood is a world brand and we just don’t use it. Five years have passed since we looked at some of the options. Lets not wait another five years!
In the meantime my good friend Johnny Lyle sent me a link about a theme park that looks like it might go ahead in Sherwood Forest. Pity they didn’t put that in the Castle?
Hot on the heels of yesterdays blog about the uber cool Dr Dre headphones it seems that another cool brand has hit the headlines.
A&F is a pretty cool shop. It’s dark and mind numbingly noisy. And it’s CEO Mike Jeffreys has a certain demographic in mind.
He said, “…we hire good-looking people in our stores. Because good-looking people attract other good-looking people, and we want to market to cool, good-looking people. We don’t market to anyone other than that.”
“In every school there are the cool and popular kids, and then there are the not-so-cool kids,’ he explained. “We go after the cool kids. We go after the attractive all-American kid with a great attitude and a lot of friends. A lot of people don’t belong in our clothes, and they can’t belong. Are we exclusionary? Absolutely.”
Well he certainly knows how to win friends with that policy. Is it just me or does Mr Jeffreys (pictured) need to work in the stock room?
I need to make it clear that I don’t agree with counterfeits. If I want a Gold Rolex watch then buying one on the beach out of a guys suitcase is unlikely to have all the necessary guarantees! And $25 doesn’t usually cover the cost of the box.
But yesterday I heard something on the radio and had to smile.
It seems that the uber trendy Dr Dre Beats solo headphones are being forged and sold for £15. They generally retail at £170. Clearly there is something wrong. And when tested they generally broke, disintegrated and sounded awful. The estimated cost to make them was given as a few pounds.
Interestingly Dr Dre ‘phones were held out to be some of the best on the market. Well that’s not quite right. According to What HiFi they only get three stars. If you search their web site for headphones with five stars you’ll find plenty – look at these Grado’s at £110 – they get 5 stars.
But the point is that the Grado’s aren’t cool (I have some). Dr Dre is cool – and so, unsurprisingly you are paying a fair premium for the name – rather than a high quality sound. Perception is everything…
The Queen popped into the House of Lords yesterday and amidst the Ermine and parchment she made an ‘early’ announcement about High Speed 2 – to the extent that it’s got a green light.
Two Bills are likely in the next phase of Parliament – the first starting the London to Birmingham line then a further bill for the ‘Y’ to Manchester via Toton Nottingham and Sheffield.
Work might start on the line in 2016/17 and the first trains could run in 2026. But not in my back yard – we’ll have to wait until around 2032/3. So that’s 20 years away. That’s not going to help my frequent trips to the ‘smoke’.
The estimates on cost are around £32bn. But this is for rail at 250mph – meaning London to Toton could be 45 minutes. London to Leeds will be halved to just 57 minutes.
I am still a supporter of the HS2 line, I think it will allow us to get a competitive edge over some other cities. The disappointment is that it is going to take so long. Of the people I have talked to about this the support is unwavering, the frustration is the timescale.
I heard on the radio yesterday morning that it takes three days for the ink to dry on the goatskin vellum parchment the Queen reads from – waiting for HS2 is much like watching that ink dry?
We are being told that the new way of retailing is for us to browse on-line and then collect from a shop. It’s lovingly known as clicks and bricks. I blogged last week about the new way in which you can collect your Amazon purchases – you can read that here.
On the last few occasions I have been into Nottingham shopping a pattern has emerged. In John Lewis particularly it seems to me that they have very little stock. A few weeks ago it was electrical goods. This is frustrating after you spend time analysing the things on the shelves.
On Sunday I wanted a pair of shoes – they didn’t have the precise colour (I was told not to worry about that – ‘just try the size’). They fit – perfectly. But I wanted blue – not brown … there is a subtle difference.
So then we next ‘check the computer’ – and it turns out that I can have the precise colour and size – ‘tomorrow‘. Because the shop can order them on-line for me. All I have to do is pop back to the shop in 24 hours and I can get what I have come into town for.
Doesn’t this rather miss the point? If I want to order something on-line I can do so. If I want to try something on (shoes) I want to take them when and if they fit?
Bricks, clicks and bricks is not what this is about!
As you know the blog last week featured Lyon in France. But last week I had shifted Countries and spent 48 hours in Cork, Southern Ireland.
I have been to Cork before, but only to fly into. I once had a client who had a house near the Ring of Kerry and I spent a couple of days with him. The surrounding countryside is truly amazing – and the Killarney National Park is worth a visit.
It is interesting that Cork seems to have this problem. People flying in and then heading off somewhere else. It is a double edged sword that Blarney Castle and it’s famous stone is nearby. In fact it is just five miles from Cork. There is then the Cobh Port – where the Titanic last touched landfall before capsizing in 1912. The town houses a museum – modern day cruise-liners arrive there – and are generally whisked off to Blarney!
But Cork is a wonderful place – just a bit invisible to the ‘Capital weekenders” – those folks who do Capital cities for short breaks in search of good food, drink and something different.
Cork seems to me to be a City of opportunity. It has the benefir of a split in the Lee River (this is not a confluence like Lyon!). It has 22 bridges and the City is primarily located on the central island. It has history (and alarmingly has chimes with Nottingham – being a City Of Rebels – there is a Rebels Week).
But the thing that struck me most was that this is a city which is has over 600 shops and the majority are independent. This is especially so in the area of food / drink. Over 80% of the establishments are owner run. The Costa is pushed to the back of the town – certainly not in the prime position.
This is something I think the City should trade upon. It is unique and it makes the place interesting!