'Chain free Brockley'

The news that Toads Mouth Too has been put up the sale has, for some, raised the spectre that a chain might move in. The argument runs: what makes Brockley special is its chain-free status, the arrival of a chain would destroy its character.

It seems unlikely that such an awkward site as the one occupied by Toads Mouth would be taken over by a chain but that aside, Brockley is neither chain-free, nor a utopia. By our reckoning, there is a long list of big chain businesses in the immediate area, including:

Tesco
Costcutter x 2
Co-Op x 2
Budgens
Londis
Pizza Hut
Wetherspoons
Barclays
KFH
Esso
Big Yellow
E Coomes
Coral

Brockley is a wonderful place that this blog has devoted a lifetime to documenting, but its high streets (Brockley Road and Lewisham Way) are clearly its Achilles' heel.

Yes, we have some outstanding independent businesses, but we also have rotting or empty units, shabby, half-finished shop fronts and landlords who think it's a good idea to price a florist out of their shop, only to have the money-transfer company that eventually replaced them run-off without paying their bills.

Many of our good independent businesses aren't found on the high street, they're tucked away from the squalor on side roads. Work to improve the high-street has been slow, with several false dawns.

We aren't chain free, we just have some pretty rubbish chains.

One or two excellently run, high-quality chains could undoubtedly make a big difference to the area. They could afford to invest in units to bring them up to scratch properly, they could sort out dodgy landlords and draw in new visitors to the high street, who would in turn frequent other local businesses. BC would be very happy if Carluccios took over La Lanterna and did it properly. The reality is that they almost certainly won't.

It's time to stop worrying about the threat of chains moving in and start worrying about how we sort out our high streets.

94 comments:

BrockleyFox said...

I could not agree more. Well put.

Sarah G said...

Here here! It was a sad day when the florists closed, it made such a positive statement on an ugly roundabout.
It's reassuring to see locals are still supporting Brockley gems such as Browns, Broca, Degustation, The Orchard, the list goes on! We are very lucky to have such a fine selection of local places to spend our hard earned pennies! :0)

Tim said...

Completely agree. A healthy high street has a happy mix of quality chains and quality independents. I have no idea how landlords think that keeping units empty is a good way to make money. What is the owner of La Lanterna thinking, for example?
Also, given levels of unemployment in this country, I am shocked there aren't more entrepreneurs opening businesses like the successful Orchard and Browns. There has to be money to be made?

Anonymous said...

re the Lanterna:
They would appear to think that when they turn it into a huge barn of a place(which will send us elsewhere),
that they will recoup their money and more!

TM said...

Shame there isn't a chain of Sounds Around on every high street.

mk said...

Well, the chains you've listed are by and large chains of convenience, and Tesco and Wetherspoons aside, aren't usually involved in the overly-aggressive pricing that crowds out opportunities for independent rivals. I also don't know that there's much of an independent alternative to a petrol station like Esso, or that people would treasure such an option all that much.

Chains such as Costa or Pizza Express would have more of an impact I think, because they are more of a lifestyle brand than Big Yellow or Coral.

On another note, what happening with La Lanterna?

notesofanidealist said...

About Brockley Road (and perhaps mildly off topic): Isn't one of the good things about Brockley that the main road going through it isn't *that* busy, so the place isn't cut in half? Otherwise I can only think of Dulwich Village and Peckham nearby where this applies. Crossing the main road in Brixton for instance feels like emigrating to another continent and takes about as long.

Anonymous said...

and my favourite, Morleys.

mb said...

"...there aren't more entrepreneurs opening businesses..."

Most bussiness need a line of credit don't they? the banks aren't lending (old man Vince is getting annoyed about that) and borrowing against the value of your property (assuming you have one) will be difficult I'm sure. Lot's of people are hunkering down and saving more. It's perhaps not to be discouraged after the last couple of decades but all of the above does not lend itself to opening a small bussiness.

mb said...

...and agree about the chain thing. Chains are not inherently bad because they are chains, Antic Pubs are a mid sized chain and although there are similarities across their pubs I'd say that they are a positive addition to any high street.

unchain Brockley said...

What some people are worried about are those chains
(pizza express, starbucks, not that they are coming anytime soon) that will attract the kind of people to the area who'll change the feel of Brockley in a bourgeoise way.

LadyPeez said...

This is a very sensible posting. Brockley is not chain free and never will be.

I'm not sure what chains are badly run, I do know that plenty of independents are appallingly managed. Toads Mouth Too springs to mind.

Part of Brockley's problem is it lacks a coherent centre. There are at least three mainline stations serving a reasonably low density area, meaning that there is no one area to go to and not enough people in any one place.

This, coupled with narrow pavements on the main road, and the tendency for long stretches where there are only shops on one side of the street, makes it difficult to create a Lordship Lane type feel (and, let's face it, Brockley is not affluent enough to sustain such an offering anyway, which is part of the reason why it doesn't exist).

While The Orchard demonstrates that a business can succeed (but please vary the menu, people are getting bored!) the likelihood is Brockley will remain a slightly disparate entity with some businesses coming and going, the odd chain staying, and some retail outlets remaining empty, for many years to come. That’s not to be pessimistic, just realistic.

It’s not about ‘mung’ versus ‘chains’. It’s about facing up to the fact that there is some lovely housing stock in a leafy part of Lewisham, straddled by the A2 and A20 and a cut through to the south circular, and a few ‘ok’ places to go to dotted about. That’s where we live, best get used to it.

TM said...

Here is a chain looking for new opportunities.

Can anyone find a location and persuede them to come to Brockley?

http://epidm.edgesuite.net/RBI/property/EGEUP/EGEUP_sainsburys_22062011.html

Hope the link works.

Anonymous said...

You've done it now TM!

KennyTinsel said...

A branch of John Lewis would be nice. With a food hall.

Ross said...

"Also, given levels of unemployment in this country, I am shocked there aren't more entrepreneurs opening businesses like the successful Orchard and Browns. There has to be money to be made?"

because its extremely expensive to do along with being massively time consuming and confusing.

Tiny said...

It is good to see that blot on Brockley Station, D & M Van Hire, has been ticketed this morning. 'And it will be happening on a regular basis,' according to a well-placed source. (If he continues to park his vehicles unlawfully that is.)

Now we need to deal with the constant dumpers of rubbish at Brockley Cross.

Anonymous said...

Better a chain of non-independent shops than a chain of empty shops.

Richard Elliot said...

Well said Nick.

Elin said...

Bringing in chains that do not bring much into the local community will not make an area better for the local community. Maybe a bit more attractive, but local business that work will do the same.

Locally owned businesses brings a much larger share of their own revenue back into the local economy.

Small business will select products and prices based on what works in the area, not based on a national sales plan. And chains don't normally change their menu that often either.

Not to mention supply chain/social and environmental issues with larger chains (also there in smaller businesses, but not as much).

Organisations like HCD in Hackney (a local community economic development organisation) helps with these things. Someone could do something like that in the area to help with business support...

Anonymous said...

So, if Brockley needs more businesses opened, what do people want to see?

- More eateries and what kind - cafes, restaurants, cake shops,take-aways, bakery
- bars
- shops: general/convenience stores, food, artizan, fruit and veg, clothing, arts, music, flowers, gift, furniture, electrics, house stuff, DIY, bargain stores, market, sports,
- kids activities, adult education, community activities
- fitness

What kind of independent (or not!) traders could Brockley do with?

Anonymous said...

If it was straightforward to start a successful business, of course more people would be doing it. It is not. Having your own business takes over your life. Most of us like a more even work-life balance.

Brockley Nick said...

Elin - it's true that chains repatriate profits to whoever their investors are (possibly your pension fund) but when evaluating the contribution of any business to the local community, it's a much more complex equation.

The questions that really matter are:

1. Does it occupy a site that is likely to stay vacant otherwise?

2. Does it make the closure of other local businesses more likely?

3. Does it attract more footfall to the area, for the benefit of other businesses?

4. How many people does it employ locally?

5. How much value does it add to the lives of local people (convenience, experience, essential services, etc)?

6. How much more or less likely are other businesses to locate themselves near it? (Do they want to bask in its halo or run a mile?)

7. How does it conduct itself in the community? Does it hire local contractors? Does it respect the local environment? Does it park its vans illegally in the middle of the road, etc, etc.

In most cases, where the profits go is a minor factor (most small businesses don't make any profits for the first 3 years of their lives anyway).

For example, I think nearly everyone would welcome the arrival of a high street bank to the area. Because it would provide a useful service, draw people to the high street, improve a shabby shop front and - ideally - lend to other local enterprises.

No one would care that all high street banks are massive chains which make huge profits that go to investors all over the world. In fact, banks are criticised for withdrawing communities.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - two more points "independent" is not the same as "locally owned". And it doesn't really bother me where the owner lives, so long as they act responsibly towards the local area.

The suggestion that local businesses have more environmentally friendly supply chains is simply not true. Large companies can devote dedicated resources to auditing supply chains, devising CSR strategies, leveraging economies of scale to drive down environmental impact (eg: more efficient use of lorries, etc). Small businesses can't do any of that.

Yes, there are some independent businesses that work very hard to be as sustainable and ethical as they can, but most don't and nearly everyone is ultimately in the hands of (large) distributors, to a great extent.

Brockley Jon said...

Speaking of empty shops, what about Ask Toes - it has been like that for as long as I can remember, graffiti & all. Could be a great little independent shop.

TM said...

I thought it had structural issues which were beyond economic repair.

Also shouldn't it be Toes Ask?

kolp said...

Well said Elin, your points match the experience we have in Brockley with Broca, Browns -The Shop on the Hill, Orchard etc. Successful locally based & independent businesses do much more for a community.

Local events & initiatives are supported & participated in, as in the BMax & dearly departed (Chocki of Brockley -chocolatiers). A start up business had its lines supported in many of the shops mentioned. Try getting a chain to do that.

Local& independent enterprises may be not be awash with cash but decision making is direct, fast.

Chains due to their corporate structure will tend to be lumbering.

Brockley Nick said...

I've written an article in praise of the co-operation between some of the good local businesses - particularly Brown's of Brockley's pay-it-forward approach. Search for "pays it forward" to find the article.

However, it's also true that many independent businesses don't do any of that sort of thing.

Some independents are small and quick, some are struggling to keep their heads above water. Some big businesses are stuck in their ways, on the other hand Tesco was able to roll out an entire new concept store across the US in an eye-wateringly short time. Big businesses have money, economies of scale and expertise. That means that they can do some things much faster than small businesses. Horses for courses.

There are good and bad chains, good and bad independents. It's not about chains v independents, it's about good businesses v bad businesses.

Paddy said...

I would be glad to see Pizza Express or Nandos in Brockley. Happy to live without the coffee shops as we have so many great ones of our own. Just no more fried chicken or bookies please!

So does this mean that TM2 is closing down as a going concern?? If so i am really disappointed as I love this place, especially the garden in Summer!

Matt Lipsis said...

I'd like to draw your attention to a similar debate in neighbouring Nunhead - http://nunheadforum.co.uk/forum/read.php?2,107

Clearly this is a topical issue that requires some thought.

Much love to Brockley Central!

kolp said...

Tesco what a reassuring example of fast reacting corporation.
They are like the Japanese Knotweed or retail.

Brockley Nick said...

You're the one who presented speed as a virtue, not me. I don't really see it as either particularly virtuous or a strength of independent businesses. Sounds Around has yet to embrace Blu-Ray and probably never will. Still love it though.

Brockley Dogging Society - Sub Edditing Dept. said...

"Local events & initiatives are supported & participated in, as in the BMax ..... Try getting a chain to do that."

Wetherspoons supported the BMax as did Antic pubs. An estate agents ,forget which, helped with the Hilly Fields Fayre. We were also right behind them, we were you know. In the bushes, peering out.

We find a little research can avoid a lot of embarasment.

Brockley Nick said...

Good point well made doggers. CK was the sponsor of Hilly Fields.

TM said...

Novel way of spelling "editing"

Brockley Dogging Society - appointments department, department. said...

Sorry TM, We have removed Colin from his post temporarily. He finds typing difficult at the mo, an unfortunate accident with a set of industrial nipple clamps. How we LOLed!

TM said...

Laughed out Louded?

Bad to verse

Brockley Dogging Society - anarchoshaggers said...

@TM it's the 21st Internet generation. We're not restricted by the tyranny of grammar or spelling.

Lou Baker said...

The anti-chain people are, by and large, idiots.

Successful chains are successful because they offer people what they want. They employ large numbers of people, pay vast amounts of tax and benefit large numbers of people.

Independent retailers can be good. But they can be bad too. I was in an independent shop, in Brockley just yesterday. And despite there being no queue I waited for 5 minutes to be served because the owner/manager was chatting away on the phone. That was crap service. And that's why he will only ever be an independent retailer.

A good business is a good business - whether it employs 1 person or 100,000 people.

Captain Birkenstock, 4th Brockley Sandle wearing Brigade said...

will not react to the troll, will not react to the troll will not.... *repeat untill he goes away*

Agree 100% with Nick.

Anonymous said...

I want to open a coffee shop. An Amsterdam style one.

Anonymous said...

Lou, you talk a lot of sense, as usual. I totally agree re the independent shops offer cf the more service led offer of the chains. It is ironic and surprising but there it is. Magi and toad are two examples of lovely shops with huge potential if run properly. The orchard guy has done well but there seems to be a dearth of similar entrepreneurs. As for chains, only a fool would prefer an empty or uninspiring shop over a chain. Well said Nick.

Anonymous said...

Sorry - " independent shops' offer"

Should have had an apostrophe....

brockleyite said...

Very well expressed Nick.

I am amazed that so many of the shops in Brockley survive at all. I would guess that many Brockley residents spend their hard-earned cash elsewhere.

I also remember when there was a Midland bank (in the 'Sids' parade where the chemist is along from St.Andrew's church).

But the latest addition 'Brockley Rock' has a lovely sign.

There is no centre for Brockley and never will be whilst there isn't an attractive venue with a capacity to hold a crowd. All the previous halls have been sold off, are dingy, and open air events or the park has no undercover area/facilities.

The only other halls are in schools and are under various management and not really available or open to the whole community.

The footfall is to the station - (or schools and Goldsmiths) so basically a daily mass exodus of the working population, with a handful of new cafes and restaurants in shop units which do not realistically hold a large crowd.

Durrrr said...

Brockleyite, think you may have slightly missed the point of nicks post. nick has a far less bleak view of the area and it's future.

And Lou hasnt "talked sense as usual" he's called some people idiots while repeating some of what nick said but with less balance and coherence.

Don't think he's recovered after the ELL debacle and the comprehensive dismantling of his argument regarding the Big Society.

Anonymous said...

Brockley would be an ideal challenge for Mary Portas- Queen of shops- in her new government advisory role as revamper of The UKs high streets-

Lou Baker said...

@durrrr

If you dislike a chain just because it's a chain you are an idiot.

Likewise, if you like an independent retailer just because it's independent you are also an idiot.

There are good big businesses and bad small ones. And vice versa.

There are moral chains and immoral independents. And vice versa.

Judging something on its size alone is idiotic.

And I've never been wrong about the ELL. I said it would be a moderate improvement at best. And it is.

Mmmm, pizzaaaa said...

Anyone know what the story is with that junk shop on the corner of Brockley and Cranfield? Hopefully it's temporary, as that doesn't do anything positive for the area and it's a great spot for a proper business.

Open a bakers or go away said...

Who is this Lou person who likes calling people idiots? What an...

Paddy said...

Noticed this morning on my way to work that the old Ladywell pharmacy down in Ladywell Village (sounds posh) has those cheap flag signs all over it for a new business opening up offering legal services, laptop repairs, internet cafe, western union transfers and hairpieces! I cracked up laughing at the random mix of stuff on offer! Bet they end up doing international call cards and mobile accessories too.

Elin said...

Brockley Nick,

I've added my comments after yours below.

1. Does it occupy a site that is likely to stay vacant otherwise?

I would ask -Does it take up a space that would otherwise be available for local businesses?

2. Does it make the closure of other local businesses more likely?

Only if it brings in more chains that take over local business which I’m afraid has happened in many places

3. Does it attract more footfall to the area, for the benefit of other businesses?

Probably, but it depends on if you are a looking at having lots of people in the area, or if you are interested in making the actual area more profitable

4. How many people does it employ locally?
Yes that would most likely be the same for a locally owned business and a chain (or even more for a chain)

5. How much value does it add to the lives of local people?

A well run local business would add as much value if not even more as they will most likely look at what the local area is interested in instead of, as I said in my previous comment, have a national sales plan

6. How much more or less likely are other businesses to locate themselves near it?

I haven’t seen any statistics or research on this (anything out there?)

7. How does it conduct itself in the community?

Yes, that could be the same for both chains and locally owned businesses

8. In most cases, where the profits go is a minor factor.

I disagree, ok that small business won’t make much profit for the first 3 years, but there are statistics that show that locally owned businesses bring more money into the community, by using more local produce and services, while chains, even though they also employ local people, bring much less.

9. For example, I think nearly everyone would welcome the arrival of a high street bank to the area.

I think you need to distinguish between different types of business here

Garages and banks for example – how many locally owned/ independent ones are there of these? So to be able to have bank accounts etc and use petrol, of course there will be high street ones in the area.
Supermarkets and restaurants etc – there are locally owned versions of these and that’s what I’m talking about.

10. PS - two more points "independent" is not the same as "locally owned".

Locally owned and independent - sure they are 2 different things, but most of the time I believe independent business are locally owned.

11. The suggestion that local businesses have more environmentally friendly supply chains is simply not true.

Local business can have more direct contact with the whole supply chain, while large companies, even though they have their CRS strategies, hardly know their supply chain. They usually know to tier 1 but not further than that, and are therefore often blind to the risks and conditions associated with the rest of their own supply chain.

12. Yes, there are some independent businesses that work very hard to be as sustainable and ethical as they can, but most don't and nearly everyone is ultimately in the hands of (large) distributors, to a great extent.

Yes there are good and bad businesses. I think, as I said in my previous comment, I see a need for an organisation like HCD in Hackney (a local community economic development organisation). Someone could do something like that in the area to help with business support... HCD helps with rent, business support, applying for funds etc and they work with businesses that will bring benefits to the local community.

abw said...

i grew up in crofton park with a butchers a bakers a fishmongers and a greengrocers and the local co op has always existed in some form or other for tinned foods etc. Local bliss. However todays aggressive supermarkets are designed to sell EVERYTHING at cut price and will kill off the local businesses. For a more recent exapmle take Catford - Tescos starts selling half price fruit and veg and the beautiful fruit stall outside dies within 6 months only to be replaced by a £-scoop low quality stall. When Tescos started selling carribean bread the local west indian bakers went under in 6 months. Cheap meat in Tescos - lovely local butchers on corner by the 'Cat" turned into nasty 'meat express'.

In this challenging economic climate loyalty is understandably low.Any of the big 4 supermarkets in brockley will determine the quality of the shops around it and not in a good way.
Let supermarkets fill the gap in places where there is no alternative eg the tescos local about to open in ladywell (corner of whitburn/high st)

Brockley Nick said...

@Elin - You seem to be attempting to answer these questions without a specific business in mind. That's my point. Each business needs to be looked at individually.

You say later: "I think you need to distinguish between different types of business here"

Yes, that's precisely the point of the article.

On point 1: yes, that's another way of putting it, but given that Brockley has lots of empty units, I don't think that's really a risk.

On point 3 you say:
"Probably, but it depends on if you are a looking at having lots of people in the area, or if you are interested in making the actual area more profitable."

I'm sorry, I don't understand the distinction you are trying to make here. How do you make the area "more profitable" without having more people as customers? We can encourage people to spend more locally by giving them more attractive local options, but that's up to business to sort out and the point of this article is that chains could play a valid role in doing this.

On point 6: yes, there are various studies looking at clusters and the logic is obvious. If you have a nice restaurant in the area then a nice bar next door might attract some people for a pre- or post-meal drink, for example. If you have a bank next door, then more people are likely to pop in to your shop. This clustering effect is why high streets exist, after all.

On point 11: sorry, that's just not true. Quite the reverse.

On point 12: yes, I can see that might help in a few instances and would support one if you wanted to start one. The Council did precisely this through their town centre managers programme, but it was a flop and they scrapped them. Businesses told me they were of little to no value. That doesn't mean someone or something else couldn't do it better.

Monkeyboy said...

The 'locally sourced' badge of excellence is overused and does have much to do with great shops independand or not. Degustation and Genaros are both excellent specialist retailers, I don't think they sell a single thing that could be described as 'locally sourced'. Is it better (whatever that means) to buy cheese from a 'local' industrial cheese factory from a small bussiness in cornwall? Small bussinesses have had to adapt their offering since some bloke decided to stop faming, and selling the surplus, and decided to act as an agent to sell the surplus of others - about 5000 years ago.

mb said...

should have read:

...overused and does NOT have much to do with great...

But you get the point?

Elin said...

Brockley Nick,

1 You seem to be attempting to answer these questions without a specific business in mind. That's my point. Each business needs to be looked at individually.

I’m talking in general, and don’t think there needs to be a specific business. But Broca I think is a good example. Farm shop in Hackney is another (who also produce their products).

2 You say later: "I think you need to distinguish between different types of business here"

Yes, that's precisely the point of the article. I don’t think you do distinguish between them though?


3 I'm sorry, I don't understand the distinction you are trying to make here. How do you make the area "more profitable" without having more people as customers? We can encourage people to spend more locally by giving them more attractive local options, but that's up to business to sort out and the point of this article is that chains could play a valid role in doing this.

As I pointed out chains do bring less money into a local areas. That is my point about making an area more profitable.

4 On point 6: yes, there are various studies looking at clusters and the logic is obvious. If you have a nice restaurant in the area then a nice bar next door might attract some people for a pre- or post-meal drink, for example. If you have a bank next door, then more people are likely to pop in to your shop. This clustering effect is why high streets exist, after all.

Other chains, yes, but what about other businesses.

The question here really is I think do people want the area to look like any other area with lots of chains, or do they want more diversity. I’m more for more diversity, but that doesn’t mean other people here are. Maybe people would prefer to have lots of chains and the same things as in some other high streets.

5 On point 11: sorry, that's just not true. Quite the reverse.

And what do you base that on. Sainsburys? How many farmers do you think Sainsburys know. How many suppliers within the supply chain does a large company know beyond Tier 1? Not many. I would be interested if you had some facts to say the opposite?

6 On point 12: yes, I can see that might help in a few instances and would support one if you wanted to start one. The Council did precisely this through their town centre managers programme, but it was a flop and they scrapped them. Businesses told me they were of little to no value. That doesn't mean someone or something else couldn't do it better.

Let’s hope someone starts one. I’m just saying there are other options out there. Maybe local people who want to start businesses can get together and look at other options.

Monkeybuy, I agree, locally produced in England is often what you will look at for products like cheese and other food products, as there is not much produced in Brockley for example. An of course, tea and coffee for example - England doesn't grow much and we do want these products so of course sourcing them responsibly is a good option.

Brockley Nick said...

Brockley Nick,
But Broca I think is a good example. Farm shop in Hackney is another (who also produce their products).

Perhaps they are. And what does this prove. My questions were designed to be applied to any business moving in to an area, to see whether it is a "good thing" or not (never mind their right to exist). All I'm saying is that the issues are complicated and the blanket fear of chains is silly.

"As I pointed out chains do bring less money into a local areas."

You did assert that, but I don't accept it as an axiom. In any case, we are not dealing with an either / or situation. There are plenty of empty units. A chain moving in doesn't need to displace anyone, it may help attract independent businesses. Which brings us on to the next point...
"Other chains, yes, but what about other businesses."

Yes, other independent businesses. I've already given examples of how a bank could help an independent shop and a restaurant chain could help an independent bar. Why should only chains want to locate themselves next to Pizza Express?

"The question here really is I think do people want the area to look like any other area with lots of chains, or do they want more diversity. I’m more for more diversity."

I suspect this is the real motivation for a lot of complaints about chains. It's one I sympathise with, but it's completely unrelated to the economic argument. But just as Brockley's high-streets are not chain free, neither are they "diverse". In fact, they look many shabby high streets in many parts of London. I don't see how getting a Yo Sushi or a Whistles (not that we will get either of those) would make the high street less diverse. It will make it more diverse than it currently is. And yes, it might look like a generic nice high street, but better that than a generic nasty high street. Anyway, it's complete fantasy to imagine Brockley Road will become swamped with chains - it's just too small to interest most.

"And what do you base that on. Sainsburys? How many farmers do you think Sainsburys know."

No, not on Sainsbury's. I have worked with lots of multinationals whose job it is to know their supply chain inside out. A very small number of shops might know the farms they source some of their products from, but the vast majority don't source direct, do they. Again, it should go back to those key questions. And you seem fixated on sourcing. What about logistics? Energy efficient design and fit out? Worker pay and conditions? Just because a shop buys its eggs from a lovely farmer, doesn't mean that their sustainable performance is particularly good. And what about that farmer? How's their supply chain?

Anonymous said...

I want a second-hand bookshop

Anonymous said...

Or should that be, a second-hand books shop

Anonymous said...

The Brockley Book Box

Brockley Nick said...

Presumably, to make a second-hand book shop work these days you need a landlord willing to charge a peppercorn rent on a largish unit (books need quite a bit of display space and room for people to mill around) and someone willing to do run it as a lifestyle option, able to work for a minimal income. A retiree?

Otherwise I just don't see how a second hand bookshop is viable, unless you're talking about rare collecters items / antiques.

Brockley Nick said...

After all, there are quite a few second hand book sales locally.

Anonymous said...

Yeah it's not a viable business to be sure. It's just wishful thinking.

I didn't know there were local book sales though. I'll try and keep an eye out.

Elin said...

Good sicussion.

I work with multinationals who do not have a clue and since I'm guessing neither of us can say anything more specific on that subject I think best to leave it there.

If you are interested in statistics on money brought back into the area from small businesses vs large companies I can send it to you.

I think it's naive to think that only 1 or 2 chains move in.

And as far as you think chains bring diversity, well that's your option. But again, you are mixing up banks with restaurants and bars (and that was my point about distinguishing between businesses)

But of course I do agree that there are good and bad business (both small and large business). Coop for example or Brewers fayre are good examples.

Yes I did focus on sourcing as an example, and you are right in energy efficiency etc. Would be great if there were more businesses thinking about those things. I think large and small businesses are bad at that. And I'm sure you will say that larger companies look at that more, but I have seen evidence that they don't.

Worker's rights and pay. Do you mean locally? I think most good business (large and small- and yes I do agree that there at bad and good businesses in both small and large ones, I've never said otherwise) will address that.

Anonymous said...

I can imagine the walls of one of the Toads Mouth Too rooms covered in books, as a business within a business.

Brockley Nick said...

Yes, I can see that working, though again, not really going to generate significant money.

Needs someone who takes it upon themselves to strike up a relationship with a local venue, source the books, agree a revenue share with the venue (presumably the venue actually handles the purchase transaction), keep stocks replenished and market the fact that the offer now exists. But I don't believe something like that would turn over more than 100 quid a week, of which, let's say 20% goes on costs (stock and sundry costs) and 50% of the remaining £80goes to the venue.

Let's be positive and say £50 a week. Not to be sniffed at, but only viable as a hobby / part time exercise.

Brockley Nick said...

PS - The venue(or whoever) would still need to be able to use the space to serve customers, otherwise there's no way they'll give up valuable floor space for such a low-margin use.

Danja said...

Garages keep being mentioned as natural chain (as opposed to local) businesses. That wasn't always the case, and even now many (most?) are franchises. So (maybe) local businesses for local people (and others) but also part of a chain.

Just like a McDonalds and KFC would be if some of the anons got their wishes fulfilled with the local good honest food offerings.

Brockley Nick said...

@Elin

"I think it's naive to think that only 1 or 2 chains move in."

I think it's naive to worry about chains moving in. As I've said, they're already here and have been for many years. We might get another supermarket chain (to join the many we already have) and possibly another fast-food or takeaway chain, but I just don't believe that the units are suitable in most cases, nor that the scale of the high-street is sufficient. We definitely won't get any high street shops. We might get a restaurant chain one day. Maybe a bar chain, but unless Gulen's or Wetherspoon sells-up, don't know where one would go.

"You are mixing up banks with restaurants and bars (and that was my point about distinguishing between businesses)"

I'm not complaining about chains, so it's not me mixing anything up. I appreciate there is a big difference between a bank and a bar or a shop. I think it's incumbent upon the "anti-chain" crowd to specify what types of chain they are particularly worried about, then we can have a sensible discussion about the pros and cons.

"But of course I do agree that there are good and bad business (both small and large business)."

Right then, so what are we arguing about?

"Coop for example or Brewers Fayre are good."

Well the co-op in CP isn't very good. And you'll have to enlighten me as to why Brewers Fayre is "good". Owned by Whitbread, like Costa Coffee - would you be happy if they opened locally?

Elin said...

Wow I didn't realise Brockley Nick and I were arguing.

To make this short (and not a continuation of an 'argument') I will just make
2 last points.

1. Some high street 'chains' like banks and garages are difficult not to have locally as there are no alternatives.

2. However, there are other alternatives to restaurants and supermarket chains. And there are examples were these work. What I tried to point out, and what I think is the most important thing, is that local businesses do bring more benefits to an area, as:

a. More of the money spent stays and recirculates in the local economy - 2, 3 times as much as for chains (though Brockley Nick doesn't believe this, that doesn't mean it's not true).
b. Local businesses are more likely to think about what the people in the area actually wants

and no there are not that many in Brockley area that do that at the moment, which is why I mentioned HCD in Hackney.

Anonymous said...

Food and drink, I can get from the supermarkets, although a good local butcher would be nice (Wellbeloved in Deptford being the closest).

The conveniences I miss (but accept I will probably never see in Lewisham let alone Brockley) are a good bookshop (closest: Greenwich, unless you count the restricted opening and subjects in Goldsmiths) and a gentlemen's outfitters (not just a recycler of unspeakable branded "designer" goods) (closest: Central London as far as I am aware).

Brockley Nick said...

I would welcome a successful equivalent of HCD being set up.

As many people have said, the most successful high strets usually have a mix of chains and independents. That's what I'm arguing for. Certainly that's what Stoke Newington in Hackney has.

Please post the link to the stats about circulation of money. I've heard those kinds of stats before, but it would be interesting to see the small print.

How much money does La Lanterna circulate in the local economy? Or the empty units on Harefield Road and in the Tea Factory? Or the deserted businesses at Brockley Cross?

Anonymous said...

A good manager/franchise-owner of a chain store should always be aware of what the locals want. That's how to run a good business.

For example, a good supermarket in an area with a large Caribbean-descended population will stock up on Caribbean foods

My dreams of a bookshop aside, what this area could do with is a good Italian/pizza place.
Some of the existing takeaway restaurants in the Brockley Station area could also improve.
There's a couple of great restaurants in Honor Oak and some good spots around Lewisham Way.

As for other kinds of stores, I think Brockley is pretty much covered isn't it? I can't think what's missing. So any new business is likely to be a competitor to an already existing venture (Brockley Rock for example - although I'm very looking fwd to that)

Brockley Nick said...

@Elin - I guess I should add - to this extent, we totally agree:

I would love it if Brockley's high streets were occupied exclusively by excellent independent businesses offering quality, value and range to suit all tastes and needs. I think this would be preferable to a high-street full of chains, even if those businesses did all of the same things - precisely because I agree that clone-streets are boring and I'd rather local entrepreneurs were benefitting from my spending (actually this is only true up to a point, I'd rather my money go to shareholders in a chain than a multi-millionaire small business owner, however local they were, because the chances are my pension fund is one of those shareholders).

However, where we differ is that I think both of these scenarios are pure fantasy.

The best chance we have of creating a pleasant, fun, useful high streets is with a mix of good quality businesses of all kinds and I think chains have a clear role to play.

kolp said...

I don't like dishonesty in arguments. It demeans the person that does it.

The actual quote"

Referring to Chocki I wrote :"A start up business had its lines supported in many of the shops mentioned. Try getting a chain to do that."

versus

the strawman quote:

(note the elipsis) "Local events & initiatives are supported & participated in, as in the BMax ..... Try getting a chain to do that."

Anonymous said...

Sorry my last example was also a restaurant, but you get my point

Westsider said...

kolp, lots of chain stores stock local producers. Managers have some scope to make their own decisions about what lines to stock and what local causes to support. Talking of which are you going to credit Wetherspoons and Antic for their support of the Max, cos you did kind of ignore that.

Anonymous said...

A Sainsbury's local would be excellent

Anonymous said...

The Orchard restaurant should move into Toads Mouth Too and turn the existing Orchard into just a bar. Kerchingg!

TM said...

There used to be a national chain of butchers called Dewhursts.

What ever happend to them I wonder?

Actually I know ;o)

BDS - Readers Editor. said...

@ KolpThe full quote was....

"Local events & initiatives are supported & participated in, as in the BMax & dearly departed (Chocki of Brockley -chocolatiers). A start up business had its lines supported in many of the shops mentioned. Try getting a chain to do that."

Wetherspoons, Antic and CK are all chains. They all supported local events and initiatives such as the BMax and Broc Soc Fayre. No they didn't sell local chocolate but my point stands. Big chains can and do support events, possibly cynically possibly not.

No dishonesty, just facts. Cold, Hard Facts.

Lou Baker said...

Elin is basically asking for taxpayers to subsidise small businesses because she doesn't like Tesco et al.

It is total tripe to argue that local businesses always put more money back into a community than chains. Smaller companies tend to employ fewer people, they pay those people less, they make less profit so pay lower taxes, have smaller premises so contribute less in business rates. They give less to charity and stock fewer goods, at higher prices.

None of that necessarily matters if the independent retailer is good. But, demonstrably, they are not all good. Some are but others are very, very bad.

Yes it would be lovely to have a collection of good independent retailers - and nothing else. But, as Nick said, that ain't gonna happen. And as it's not going to happen we should welcome chains opening here.

Two more points. First, Elin is totally wrong to tell you supermarkets don't know who their suppliers are. They know their suppliers, and their suppliers suppliers, and their suppliers suppliers suppliers. And they know this because food in this country has to be traceable so, in the event of problems (like E.coli) the source can be found.

Second, the anti-chain brigade - bizarrely - have no problem with the biggest chain in the country. A chain they fight tooth and nail to preserve whenever anyone suggests making it more local, more accountable to communities. A chain so vast that it monopolises one of the biggest
industries there is. A chain we all use - but which remains impersonal, distant, centralised and unaccountable. I'm talking about the NHS. A chain the hypocritical corduroy brigade always make an exception for.

Squeezed middle said...

I think you mean "hard working tax payer" At least use the correct trite label to illustrate your argument.

Anonymous said...

The NHS has nothing to do with this topic. But I realise you try and find any excuse to have a go at people.

Anonymous said...

down with chains!!! if Brockley becomes just like every other area and has just the same chains then I say down with Brockley!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Is Brockley Central in favour of big business corporate power and the clone-zoning and dull homogenisation of our High Streets?

Down with chains!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

If BC is in favour of chains...down with BC!!!

Anonymous said...

If Brockley had a Waterstone's, it would be great. The fact that it is a chain does not stop, and would not stop, me using it.

If it comes to that I'm all in favour of Weatherspoons pubs as they dispense with the horrible constant dreadful music that all the others seem to blare out constantly in order to prevent their patrons thinking (Brockley Jack excepted).

Anonymous said...

But if they had a good independent bookshop that would be 100 times better...

Anonymous said...

how long is Toad Mouth Too open for?

Anonymous said...

I know of a cafe out of London that has 2nd hand books on its shelves for sale. Good cafe/bookshop combo is possible...

Tressilliana said...

Independent booksellers, secondhand booksellers - lovely idea. People enjoy browsing in them. Then they go and buy their books from Amazon or Waterstone's because they're cheaper and/or better stocked.

We had a secondhand bookseller in Brockley, years ago. It closed.

Anonymous said...

As much as I hate to say it, there are few independent bookshops which can afford the prices and range of books that Waterstones achieve.

A secondhand bookshop would be good though if it could make ends meet, although I somehow doubt that it could. I love browsing in secondhand bookshops but the number of customers most have makes me wonder how any of them survive.

We can hope, I suppose.

Kasanova said...

"Also, given levels of unemployment in this country, I am shocked there aren't more entrepreneurs opening businesses like the successful Orchard and Browns. There has to be money to be made?" because its extremely expensive to do along with being massively time consuming and confusing.

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