Saturday, 9 February 2013


Saturday 9th February

One of the modules I studied for my first degree was 'Retail Development'. Alongside the study of theoretical retail concepts were comprehensive case studies regards urban decay, urban renewal, urban villages and out-of-town centres, all of which provided a wide grounding in understanding the commercial dynamics of cities towns & villages. I've never had the opportunity to put any of those principles I learned into professional or commercial practice, but the studies have subsequently proven to be a useful grounding in the world of local government, where increasingly local authorities have responsibility for commercial town planning and in some cases have even become partners in retail schemes across the boroughs all over the country.

I feel very confident therefore in discussing the news that is the proposed Notcutts & Waitrose scheme in Bagshot and the reasons why I'm fully in support of it.
Frankly, its superb news. And here's why.

National 'chain' retailers base a lot of their location theory on demographics, threshold populations, footfall and proximity to other similar stores, including their own. For example, a bookseller such as 'WHSmith' requires a threshold population of about 35,000* people from the 'store hinterland', a subsequent percentage of regular shoppers from that threshold and a similar percentage of a particular demographic before they will locate a shop premises in a town. A full sized chain chemist such as Boots require about 50,000 people; department stores have a higher threshold while jewellers require far fewer shoppers, which is why there isn't a House of Fraser on Frimley High Street.
In turn, big store retailers act as 'anchors', around which a variety of local chains and independent shops agglomerate. This is how you'll find a Holland & Barrett and a Superdrug near a Boots for example, and more recently a Next springing up at The Meadows. Around the big anchor stores, the addition of smaller retailers creates a commercial synergy that benefits all; similar stores complement each other - Superdrug will benefit from shoppers who go to Boots, and vice-versa - while smaller speciality shops benefit from the extra footfall derived from the larger retailers - boutiques & House of Fraser, and vice versa.

During the 1980's this theory was researched, then distilled and a version of it was rolled out into the 'out of town' retail park concept which led to the creation of a great number of out of town shopping centres across the country. These parks provided convenience for the consumers with ready made beneficial agglomeration for the retailers. What the planners didn't quite appreciate at that time was the crushing effect these retail parks had upon the town centres. While the retailers were delighted, the High Streets began to suffer. This in turn led to a massive push in the 1990's back into the urban renewal for the town centres and you will have noted how local town centres such as Woking, Walton-Upon-Thames, Farnborough and our own Camberley reversed the trend in the years since with new town centre shopping redevelopments to draw custom back into the High Streets. In a majority of cases, these developments were funded by profits derived from the inclusion of lots of private apartments in these schemes, explaining why all of the above schemes appeared hand-in-hand with large residential developments.
Not to everyone's taste of course, but the princple has proven to be sound. And notwithstanding global downturns, the efficacy of the idea is proven locally by the fact that SHBC are currently planning another such partnership scheme for their owned frontage along the A30.

Lamentably, in a see-saw type effect, the great success of such schemes have led to a decline of the smaller village commercial centres. When a consumer goes to an 'all-singing, all dancing' town centre to eat, go to the cinema, or shop in a particular national chain, they don't tend to shop at the local village unless its for a specific speciality item, or for convenience.
It is this last point that the planners and the businesses have wrestled with and are still in the process of addressing.
Furthemore, this effect is not solely limited to regenerated town centres. In recent years and on a local, smaller scale, Lightwater has become a vibrant local commercial centre, at the expense of both the other local villages of Windlesham and Bagshot (documented several times elsewhere on this blog). This is due primarily to the location of the only village bank, the central petrol station and Budgens, all of which have proven to be the 'anchors' around which the rest of the village retailers depend for custom.

A Waitrose store will change all of this. Waitrose will be the anchor store that Bagshot dearly requires.
Waitrose too requires a significant threshold population, demographic and footfall to locate a store, together with a solution to what it sees as a gap in their store network. They have decided that Bagshot as a location fits suitably into that network and will complement the existing stores at Sunningdale, Bracknell and Frimley which are deemed to be over capacity in terms of customer demand. They have discovered that customers are coming past Bagshot, through Bagshot and from Bagshot in order to shop at Waitrose. They have determined that a lot of these customers would be better served by another Waitrose store.
And this is the key for Bagshot.
The proposed store is what a Waitrose architect described to me this morning as a mid-sized store. Rather than becoming a 'metro' sized shop, they have elected to go mid-sized at 21000 sq ft.
This is not a 'Tesco Local'. This is not M&S at BP. This proposed scheme is larger than the Waitrose store at Sunningdale.
Threshold population for a Waitrose of this size is somewhere in the region of 80,000 people drawn from the 'store hinterland' and as described above, the shop is sustained by a footfall as a proportion of that. This means that there will be a potential 20,000 of these residents specifically & regularly coming to Bagshot to shop.

If only one thousand of those customers regularly shop in Bagshot, the village will be transformed.

Subject-to-planning of course, Bagshot is back!
It is the best news that Bagshot has had in years.

For the sake of the village, support it.

*Data 1997

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