Can ‘Clone Towns’ be good?

February 11, 2008

In an article in Saturday’s Times business section, Sathnam Sanghera states “give me a [national supermarket chain] over my local fleapits any old day”, proposing that the New Economics’ Foundation’s critique of ‘Clone Town Britain’ is taken from a position of “privilege and snobbery”. Instead, he states that for many high streets up and down the country, the coming of national chains is a sign of success. I think he is right, partially. This proposition is in line with our own critique of the NEF’s work in our forthcoming review paper on the Sustainable Suburban High Street. However, it is probably wrong to state that independent shops are inherently inferior and certainly incorrect to propose that chain stores can – on their own – regenerate an area (as the Times article does). What seems clear is that a combination of national chains and good quality independents is the best mix and the currently proposed legislation that would make it mandatory for the government to assist local councils and community stakeholders in drawing up local sustainability strategies for enabling independents to survive in the increasingly cut-throat high street is an imperative.

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