Lessons from New York and Toronto?

Putting to one side the 24 hour city that New York regards as a norm, there are some things I have noted in New York particularly – and specifically in Toronto. I have had a few days to reflect on my latest trip.

Daniel Liebskind's Royal Ontario Museum - Toronto

Daniel Liebskind’s Royal Ontario Museum – Toronto

New York epitomises ‘change’. In fact it is constantly evolving. I probably visit, on average, every six months. And in that period shops come and go. Or, specifically they move.

Bleeker Street records is a joyous place – but it’s not on Bleeker Street these days – it’s around the corner on E4th. They moved because the rent was too high. No tears / rants – just moved. I blogged about the Samsung ‘shop’ last week – when I was last in NYC it was a Victorinox penknife shop – that is now around the corner. Earnest Sewn in the Meatpacking district is gone. Etiqueta Negra clothes were fantastic – but the shop is boarded up!

The City evolves into a new ‘thing’. That is perhaps the attraction.

It seems to me that nothing is precious. Location is not the key (5th Avenue may be the exception). They have a confidence in their product not their location?

Don’t we get bored with the vanilla High Streets around our Cities? Claires’ Accessories may have a place in some peoples hearts but they don’t differentiate?

To some extent technology helps New York. Social media keeps people posted on where things are now at. This will be key in the future.

Both cities (New York and Toronto) have managed to ‘bag’ some world class Architects to do work – Daniel Liebskind has buildings in both – his Royal Ontario Museum is spectacular! Frank Ghery has two buildings in New York. These, in their own right, give a place a huge vote of confidence. Their buildings may have a ‘marmite’ quality – but that doesn’t matter really – people talk about it. People stop and look.

These places also have plenty to do; they hook you into dwell time. And the longer you dwell the more you spend! They make it easy to stay and spend.

There are some great lessons in here for us in Nottingham?

Bad news good news …

For reasons which will become apparent I attempted to switch our flight out of Toronto back to New York earlier in the week. However, the change was going to cost twice as much as I paid for a return ticket. The girl couldn’t explain it. I didn’t bother.


But then the weather took a turn for the worse and suddenly Air Canada were cancelling flights out of Toronto. In doing so they were offering anyone with a ticket the chance to change flights! As the forecast was for worsening weather we decided to change our 7.15pm flight to a lunchtime 12.15 one.

The bad news was that this gave us a lot less time in Toronto. Especially when the show overnight hit the 6″ mark! We dutifully set off for the airport. It was as bad weather as I have witnessed – but this is Canada and they are not about stop for some light flurries. They dug our plane out and we managed to get underway – nearly three hours late. We were de-iced so as not to crash.

So that was all of the bad news – apart from the re-defining of moderate turbulence by the Captain – I presume heavy turbulence is when the wings are ripped off! A girls was literally thrown off her feet.

The good news was we were back in NYC for another gig. And if you thought the post about Barenaked Ladies was bad – how do you explain to your mum that you have actually seen Pussy Riot. They were guest of honour at the Amnesty International “Human Rights Home” concert in Brooklyn. I should make it clear they didn’t play – but rather spoke out against the oppression in Putin’s Government. Feisty young ladies and a credit to all ‘frondeuse‘ on the planet.

But the concert was also peppered with celebrities – Madonna, Susan Sarandon, The Fray, Blondie, The Flaming Lips, Imagine Dragons and for the third time in less than 12 months Bob Geldof! Geldof played at the ‘Secret Policemans Other Ball’ concert in 1981 – singing “Mondays’ – he did the same last night.

Stars of the show? Imagine Dragons by a long chalk. So every cloud?

By Tim Garratt Posted in Music, Travel Tagged Amnesty International, Blondie, , Brooklyn, Concert, Imagine Dragons, Madonna, , Pussy Riot

It’s a small world?

I’m across the big pond as I write this. I have been in New York but now have hit a bitingly cold Toronto. I’m here on holiday for a few days with my son Jak. We’re back in New York on Wednesday and then back in the UK next weekend.


I couldn’t help but reflect on my travels in the last week. It’s not been great for the planet. Nor for my body clock!

I jotted down that in the last 7 days, so far I have travelled just over 3,400 miles…

214 miles from Nottingham to Hunstanton and back
113 miles to Watford
36 miles from Watford to central London and back
113 miles from Watford to Nottingham
128 miles from Nottingham to Heathrow
3,391 miles (approximately) from Nottingham to JFK in New York
347 miles from New York to Toronto

And as you read this my day is about to start with a 2 hour drive to Niagra Falls – and then back to Oshawa tonight for a Barenaked Ladies concert! The miles keep piling up!

I couldn’t help but wonder today what people would have thought about this 100 years ago? To give some contact to the world over 100 years ago – in Nottingham it is worth a few minutes of you time to watch this amazing video – of life in front of a tram (trolley-cars?). They would surely think that this pace of life was mad!

This week may be a bit sporadic in terms of posts – I’ll post if I find interesting things that I can add to the Nottingham plan – but otherwise, life will return to normal next week with some more great stuff about Nottingham – and the business plan….

This is superb!

In anticipation of the new Carrie movie – imagine if you had been caught in this New York coffee shop whn all hell broke loose!

Absolotueltely superb…

By Tim Garratt Posted in Business Tagged Carrie, , telekinesis

Lessons from New York …

I know it was a holiday – but I think we can learn so much from New York. It’s a constantly fascinating place that evolves every time you visit.


This time my head was still full of the Grimsey Report; how are we going to change what we do so that we don’t watch the High Street die.

New York has some key differences to us here in the UK. Firstly there’s a lot of bodies. The population of Manhattan is 1.6m – but this nearly doubles on each workday by commuters. 3.1m people all looking for lunch! Then there are the 50m visitors annually. There aren’t Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s. There are multiples (Walmart – who own Boots for example).

But why does it work? I sense several themes:

1. It evolves. It is constantly changing. Shops come and go. They move with fashion. Neighbourhoods change. It’s not unusual to go back to an area and there have been a whole raft of new shops. The proposition that position is fixed seems not to exist in the same way as it does in the UK.

2. It oozes confidence. There aren’t ‘empty shops’ – there are shops waiting for a new tenant to move in and try their hand. There’s a ‘give it a go’ attitude.

3. The indies win. So often you come across a new shop or shops. And they develop a following. The Blue Bottle Coffee shop in Chelsea was superb. And the Dominique Ansel Bakery have invented the CroNut – a cross between a Donut and a Croissant. They queue early. This doesn’t do it for me – by midday they have sold out!

4. Experiment. There is an ‘inventors’ mentality. Try it – at SuperPier they have a heap of the ubiquitous ship containers. Not unique in themselves what was unique was the event programme. Free food (which they had rescued) one night we were there! It was a bit like Re:Fest! Anarchic and chaotic!

5. Make it unique. The Marc Jacobs shop on Bleeker Street were selling T-Shirts for $30 – and they were professionally sprayed for you – with your own message on a number of pre-set designs. They queued (and watched!!)

6. Quality Food. Unlike my meal on the flight over (Mr Branson your Beef cattle had been fed deep fried mars bars methinks), the food in New York is rarely anything other than good. They do eating and drinking well. Eating and drinking is made easy.

These are not the panacea to all of our problems – but there is some much energy in NYC. Arriving back in Nottingham on a damp wet ‘Fall’ day sets the challenge!

Can Apple revive itself?

I blogged about Apple last week – and my concern that they had rather lost their way.


Well fast forward a few days and to a spot nearly 3,500 miles west of Nottingham. I’m in New York for a few days – and the hot news here overnight was that queues had formed around each of the Manhattan Apple stores – people desperate to get hold of the new iphone 5s or the new multi-coloured versions – the latter are quite disgusting! I have no idea how many new phones they shifted – but the people queued all day!

I did wonder about getting an iPhone S but can’t see the point – the current iphone5 I have does what I need. I’m a bit jealous of my son’s Samsung Galaxy s3 – but the iPhone works well enough. The screen is poor at the side of the Samsung though. And the camera isn’t as good. But the apps and seamless integration with the rest of my Apple gear is pretty good.

What I do like is the new IOS – I managed to download it (slowly) before I left Blighty – although it doesn’t offer lots of different functionality – the screen are cleaner and much clearer. I love the new fonts. So we should be grateful for small mercies?

UPDATE 4pm New York time – the queue is still there! They have been queuing all day today…

The best photo shop in the world? Probably.

It’s a long way to go, but near to Madison Square Garden in New York is probably the biggest and best photo shop in the world! It is known as B&H.


This is boy-heaven.

Every time I have been to New York I have been to the shop – it really is a mecca for photographers and film makers. They literally sell everything to do with photography and film.

The staff are clearly all enthusiasts and are extremely knowledgeable. I had a half hour conversation with one – a Canon expert on where my hard earned cash should go! He was objective and helped me make a tough choice! It is fair to say he knew his stuff!

I then traded my old camera in and they gave me a higher price than I anticipated. We haggled a bit as I didn’t have the battery charger! But the whole episode was done with good grace and humour.

I left a happy chappy – with a new toy – which is completely awesome.

But the real part of this story is that I had a survey arrive as I got back to the hotel. I don’t normally bother as I suspect no one reads them (I filled one in when I bought a car recently telling the dealership how appallingly we had been treated and have never heard anything!). But B&H are different. Last night I had an email. From the Store Operations Manager – thanking me for my feedback about the location of the trade in counter (which was outside!) – he explained why – and that they were hoping to resolve this. He then thanked me for my positive feedback – of which there was plenty!

Blimey – someone actually reads the surveys.

Well done B&H. Highly recommended. And I will go again. Soon?

An Englishman in New York…

Whilst the buildings in New York may hold the key to it’s charm, sometimes the people do not.


After a few days in the Big Apple you start to question your deep-rooted beliefs and behaviours. We are so used to saying ‘thank you’ and ‘sorry’ – the latter even when we’re not in the wrong. New Yorkers used to be gruff, managing only a grudging ‘have a nice day’ – and as insincere as they could muster.

Then after 9/11 the City seemed to change. I think the out-pouring of the worlds sympathy on the citizens probably took them back a little and for a few years they were almost connected to humanity again. They would thank you back, they would say ‘you’re welcome’ when you thanked them.They were positively friendly.

But this time I detect a change. The lack of politeness is palpable. They have literally forgotten their manners. even in restaurants – I feel the need to remind them that I’m a customer not an inconvenience?

So the dilemma is – should we do the same? Should we adopt their attitude – the one that demonstrates that they’re top dog (even when they’re not!). Should we just push by them – especially the women and children? Should we grunt at them?

I’m not sure. It’s actually harder being rude than polite.And it’s a vicious circle when you start…

A dilemma indeed!

The New York Boris bikes

It seems every city is destined to have them; New York joined the ranks this week.


6,000 CitiBank bikes in 330 locations have sprung up! They cost around £7 for a day or £63 for the year.

Being New York though, they aren’t without their critics! Motorists have complained that valuable parking has been taken up, street vendors have been displaced and residents dislike the logos of CitBank on every street corner! I’m not sure that this sustainability stuff has caught on here just yet!


But this is Americas largest scheme – and if it takes off, they will expand it to 10,000 bikes in 600 locations.

9,000 people had signed up as I write this – in a city of 8m people…

I think they are a great idea with one caveat; the Manhattan traffic. I think they ought to be re-named suicide bikes. Life expectancy for riders will, I expect be quite low. Hours rather than days?

Our dispassionate view of the world?

When Hurricane Sandy hit the Eastern seaboard of the USA last October I’m sure we all watched on our TV screens with horror and sadness. Hurricanes and their ilk can wreak havoc and devastation. In the UK, we get bad storms and the occasional fatality – all very sad.

As you may guess from my blog I have been to New York a lot. It is my favourite city and there are some places which form an essential part of a trip.


One of those places is Seaport and Pier 17. These sit at the lower end of Manhattan island, close to Wall Street and house quirky shops – some independents, some multinationals.

At the moment there are none. Seven months after Sandy the shops are pretty much locked up – a handful have re-opened. They are rebuilding the streets (literally) and the shops are all being refurbished. Seaport was under 11 feet of sea water. The wind reached 80mph – making 600,000 households lose power. 375,000 people were evacuated.

The estimated clean up cost is between $10-20bn.


The concept of pop-up shop has arrived though. In the shape of shipping container, ply-lined, small shops. A Street cafe and theatre has been formed. In the sunshine the place has life again. Of course, it need to do this to keep people coming to the place. Otherwise it will fall off peoples radar.

When you see this sort of destruction at first hand (and they have cleaned much of it up) you do realise the power of our weather systems. But you also realise that in this age of 24 hour news and ‘twitter’ how detached we can become.This must have been soul-destroying to watch.

If you have time, have a look at their website and the participatory documentary. It’s sobering. It’s here.