Retail – a new(ish) concept

I was in London last week. It’s a bit of a second home at the moment. My meeting was in the City and afterwards I had a chance to have brief look at Shoreditch – an area of London which is on the up.


This is partly as a result of the fact there are a number of independents in the area, but also that there seems to be very cultural and ‘arty’ vibe. And then there is the very cool subway cars on the roof of a building!

But they also have a new retail concept – Boxpark.


Boxpark is a series of shipping containers which house small shops. The shops are aspirational – fashion, food and unique. I went to the shop – They sell printed business cards and the shop showcases the stock but also acts as a collection point for their on-line business. Clicks to bricks / containers. Nike were there as were some food outlets on the roof.

I saw a similar thing in New York where they used the containers in front of the shops at Seaport after Hurricane Sandy.

But this scheme in Shoreditch seems to have found a place. I like the idea that tenants can come and go – that makes for an interesting experience. Boxpark are also reportedly looking at bringing the concept to the regions and hopefully they will see Nottingham as a great place for this.

2013 service standards…

The UK has had a pretty tumultuous few years. The High Street in UK plc has fared even less well.


The one thing retailers can try to do to survive is get their service level right. Is it a (virtual) fact that it takes seven times as much effort win a new customer as keep an existing one. Any service industry knows that.

In general terms you do see retailers making an effort – although the spectrum of effort is wide. I try to resist using this little blog to rant – I’m not sure it really helps!

But on Saturday I was in Moseley Birmingham – in search of food at lunchtime. And we found a fairly modern looking wine bar / gastro-pub. The Bohemian Bar. It wasn’t a promising start – ‘flat white’ was interpreted as a tea flavour. But even so, the coffee machine was broken so tea was the flavour. Then the food order – taken and repeated for good measure.

The tea was drunk – during which time the coffee machine fixed itself. But no offer of a coffee (flat white or otherwise). But the food didn’t arrive – so we checked. Then finally it was apparent that the order hadn’t been passed to the kitchen.

At this point (40 minutes in) – the place have a chance to either make a relationship for ever or ruin one. And the Bohemian did the latter. There was an apology of sorts – but at the point we said we couldn’t wait any longer they simply brought the bill. For the two cups of tea. I paid and didn’t leave a tip.

The costs to the restaurant was two tea bags (10p?) but the damage to their reputation is incalculable.

Not a great example you bohemians of Moseley….

By Tim Garratt Posted in Grumpy Old Man!, Travel Tagged BohemainBar, High Street, Moseley, poor service, UKplc

HS2 – what is the real story?

I have been contemplating this for a while…


I was, and am, a massive supporter of HS2. I think it would be great for the East Midlands. In fact, part of my initial support was around the concern of us missing out. If it got built and didn’t stop by us – then that, in my book, was a disaster. Trains whistling past us to ‘other destinations’ was a potential issue for Nottingham (and Derby).

But the recent months have seen a change in tack.

Support has started to wane. This was an all-party solution – a long term plan that was supposed to go beyond the five year short-term Government accounting periods. It was a big thing and something for the whole country to back (unless you didn’t get a station or were a NIMBY of course)>

But the money bit has raised its ugly head. And the story isn’t clear. Whichever figure you use it is a lot of cash (£40-60bn?). And then there’s the benefits calculations – and whether they were ‘made up’. In fact it is difficult to understand the calculations – I often smile when a City says, “Because of this new [underground bomb shelter]* we have added [£14.73m] to the local economy”. It’s hard to challenge the figures – they do make great headlines though.

But the final part here is the timescale – I have lost track of when – but it isn’t going to help my commute anytime soon. It might help my ‘kids’ and theirs and I could buy into that.

So, where are we at? Well, it’s a lot of wonga – which could be used elsewhere. It’s a long way off. It is going to make a mess. And – we probably need it to keep the UK competitive and enable public transport to make a quantum leap.

But I just wonder at what point this Government will attach, leech like, onto something which will excuse the ‘egg on face’ moment and allow them to blame someone else for the reason they have … postponed it? Those stories are circulating…

* Insert your own project and figures here

How to win at squash

First an apology – I’m returning to a squash theme today. It’s partly on the back of a match on Tuesday night at ‘my’ squash club in Nottingham.

The Air-IT Nottingham PSL hero - Alan Clyne

The Air-IT Nottingham PSL hero – Alan Clyne

In essence we won a National League match. But we really weren’t supposed to. Squash players have world rankings and they are a good bell-weather. It’s a rare occurrence when players have vast gaps in their rankings for there to be an upset. Clearly players ‘form’ comes and goes but this tends to be within a few percentage points. The gaps in the groups are enormous – a Top 10 player will be noticeably different to a Top 50 player.

We pitched our number one player – the Scottish No.1 and world ranked 31 against a player ranked 16. William Hill wouldn’t generally give you good odds on beating the difference in status.

But my man, Alan Clyne, had not read the script and beat Cameron Pilley (a man who holds the world record for hitting a squash ball at 175mph!)

On paper we should not have won the tie.

But Nottingham Squash club has a reputation and a name in the game of ‘Fortress Notingham’. Away teams don’t particularly like it. The crowd are partisan – and noisy.

On Tuesday the crowd were on the edge of their seats as the Scottish Terrier dug in. He chased every ball and pushed his opponent. As he gained points the crowd grew louder sensing blood! And they got it. It was gruelling – but, against the odds, he did it. It was fantastic to watch.

The professional players do tell me that the crowd make a difference. Although they are ‘in the zone’ they can hear what is going on. In Alan Clynes case he told us afterwards he had never played amongst such noise – such positive noise. And unless you have seen this at play it is difficult to believe!

I guess we all like to have support at times and noisy support goes a long way it seems.

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Air-IT Notingham, Alan Clyne, , PSL, , The park

Grimsey fights back…

I blogged a week ago about the storm around Bill Grimsey – and the Minister who decided that the Grimsey Report was ‘crap’ – his words.


But Bill Grimsey has now had his say – you can read the response here.

But some highlights….

“It was all a mistake” he told me over the phone, he was misquoted and wanted to apologise. “My dad always taught me to listen,” he continued, and that’s why we should meet.

So they met in Westminster. But all didn’t go that well. Bill is rightly taking issue with the Rating revaluation which has been postponed.

So will Lewis change tack?

“Apparently not. He thinks the system is fine as it is and even admitted that the revaluation he postponed will see the retail sector lose out. When I put it to him that the only beneficiaries of this delay are the big retailers while small ones, particularly those in the north, will lose out, he just shrugged.”


Then a change of tack to technology which the Grimsey Review wants to embrace. The intention is to, “focus on the bigger picture and work towards a longer, richer and more imaginative plan and we can make sure our high streets are world leading spaces that will inspire our grandchildren.

Lewis is not entirely convinced suggesting that Portas Pilots would achieve this.

Then some key points:

1. Government high street policy is not evolving; it’s standing still, defending three years of failure and protecting its celebrity face.

2. In the month or so Lewis has held responsibility for the high street, he’s spent most of his time defending the status quo. It’s as though he’s standing in the road yelling “stop” to progress.

3. There are many in his party that are passionate about the high street. Why is that the leadership are so disinterested? Tax policy that penalizes small business and is biased towards big business, planning changes to promote the proliferation of betting shops and the encouragement of short-term thinking. It all seems a long way away from the “high street revolution” that Grant Shapps promised.

As Grimsey concludes, “did you ever get the feeling you’ve been cheated?”

By Tim Garratt Posted in Nottingham Tagged Brandon Lewis, crap, Grimsey, High Street, Portas

Happy Birthday Nottingham Contemporary!

On 14 November 2009 Nottingham Contemporary opened its doors to an exhibition of David Hockney’s early paintings. I can’t believe that 4 years have passed. And Nottingham Contemporary has become something of an Institution in the City. It is a critical part of the intellectual fabric of the place.



Since 2009 there have been 17 exhibitions featuring 220 artists from over 30 countries. That is an amazing achievement.

The gallery has become renowned in the UK and it has collected accolades:

“The UK’s most inspiring gallery” – The Guardian
“One of the UK’s strongest” – The Independent
“Constantly inventive” – The Observer

The last exhibition, Aquatopia, can now be seen at Tate St Ives.

I haven’t yet had chance to see the latest exhibition by Asco, a group of four Chicano artists who formed in East LA in the 70s and Geoffrey Farmer’s ambitious installation inspired by the life of Frank Zappa. But I clearly need to. It is on the list!

The Academy of Urbanism Awards 2014

I am an Academician at the Academy of Urbanism; this allows me to comment upon the finer things in our physical world – like ‘urban grain’. The use of such phrases is usually preserved for a select few!


The Academy exists to promote and celebrate great places.

The 2014 awards have been announced and the following are winners:

The European City of the Year : Marseille
The Great Town : Cork
The Great Neighbourhood : West End, Glasgow
The Great Street : Lamb’s Conduit Street, London
The Great Place : Custard Factory, Birmingham

In the Press Release, Kevin Murray, Chairman of the Academy, said:

“With these awards we are celebrating inspirational and heroic stories of places that are saved, turned around, rediscovered and rejuvenated. Great places don’t just happen, they are planned, shaped and supported by human endeavour.”

I was interested to see that Cork was a winner having been theatre in the Summer. I thought it was a fascinating place which I would characterise as being ‘independent’. That made it unique and a place you wanted to go back and explore. But I was also interested that the shortlisted towns included Buxton and Hastings & St Leonards.

I do some work in Buxton – and was involved in the purchase of the former Devonshire Royal Hospital – which is now and amazing University. That place has changed beyond recognition in the last 10 years. It too has independents and is ‘different’.

A worthy cause….

I had a comment on my blog in the week about something I think should be shouted about locally. I can do no better than re-print it:

Hi my name is Anne Woodward and I own Bramcote Farmshop with my Husband Andrew. I am trying to organise a charity weekend at the Farmshop in Bramcote for the Foodbank. It will be on the 7th and 8th of December. Could you please spread the word .I am trying to get the whole community involved . Please help if you can. Thanks for reading, Anne {Bramcote Farmshop}

I have done a bit of research and I found this on Nick Palmers blog – so shamelessly copy it (sorry Nick!)

For two months she’s (Anne) is (a) volunteering at a local food bank so she can advise people on how they work and (b) acting as a collection centre. If you’d got any food you’d like to donate starting November 1 you can drop it off at the shop, which is 199 Derby Rd, Bramcote NG9 3J, tel 07967758612. Obviously best is something that will last a bit and doesn’t need special equipment to prepare – e.g. some tins or anything long-life, not a microwaveable meal! I think it’s great that she’s taking the initiative and hope it goes really well.

A very worthy cause and I’m happy to support it.

The market headlines…

It’s all go go go. The market has shifted. Recession – what recession?


As you can see from the graph (taken from PropertyData) the world is smiling – especially in the property game. The dark years of 2008 are behind us. The flat-lining I have been talking about is … behind us. We should celebrate.

Or should we?


It seems that all of us need not celebrate. Those inside the M25 can – as the figures are so horribly skewed towards them.

Although the figures and statistics here don’t say a lot for the regions, We have noticed (as a firm) that there is a slight spring in the step of the market. There are more enquiries. We will always lag behind London but it does seem to be not as bad as it was!

Broadmarsh – any minute now….

So the news is out there – Nottingham City Council are to invest £50m of ‘my’ money into the Broadmarsh Centre. Intu are going to have to find the other two-thirds in this £150m project.

Leader of the Council, Jon Collins said in a statement, “It is in our interests and it is in Intu’s interests for them to get on with it. If Intu wasn’t serious about this, they would not have spent the time and effort they have done working on every last dot and comma of a deal. It has involved many hours of negotiations and I am absolutely convinced of their intent.”

Great news?

Well, sort of. Intu ‘refused to comment’ on the story. Cynically I cannot begin to imagine why? Surely the story is a great one for the City and for them? Why issue a no comment?

In fairness at the time of the announcement they were tweeting…

Screen Shot 2013-11-12 at 18.09.32

Says it all really. Penguins.