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Building the Super High Street

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Another gorgeous shop just opened on Lambs Conduit Street - the new Saville Row of London and right next to our agency.

Following J. Crew, Private White V.C. and others, we now we have a new Grenson shop. Tim Little, CEO and Creative Director, bought the Grenson brand in 2010 and he welcomed me to the shop in the way the very best retailers do; with real grace and charm.

The whole experience is intense and passionate. These are people who care deeply about the quality of their shoes. The store experience is leavened by the values of Tim. He's an ex-advertising guy who left that world to make shoes - with, as it turned out, fantastic success. He's full of clever insights and memorable phrases. One of his rules of style is "never wear socks that are funnier than you are".

The thing he said that really stuck in my mind was that, for every pair of shoes he sells on the website, he can sell two pairs in the shop.

That's what I mean when I use the term Super High Street. Good retailers will serve people in the channel that people prefer; local shops, malls, supermarkets, boutiques, department stores, online, street markets and more. Thanks to the internet, and to enterprising retailers like Grenson, we have more choice and convenience than ever before.

But Tim's point is that where his business is strongest is when it's face-to-face with customers and the beautiful products can be displayed physically in an alluring way.

I regularly tell retailers who moan about the web to work out how to compete effectively instead. Innovators in top up grocery shopping, web purchase collection and so on, understand that the future is omni-channel and are making money. Grenson shows us how a perfect customer experience makes people feel special and gets them buying. And everybody please remember, you can't get your hair done, grab a quick drink when you fancy it, have your shoes mended, collect your prescription or dry cleaning quickly on the web (yet).

Shops are about interaction, goods, stories, thrills, discoveries, display, advice, charm, selling, seduction, a bit of glamour and most of all people - and I know we'll always want all of those things in our lives.

I've been talking about this for ages and doing reports for the government and so I was delighted when I read a report by Deloitte recently.

Deloitte's analysis and recommendations fully support what we said (two years ago) in our review and the policies the government is currently planning. The great bit is that what we knew continues to be endorsed by research evidence.

Blow me - would you believe that when people are asked about their High Street they are still very positive towards it? They like the convenience, they like the community to have a gathering place, they like the mix of businesses and other facilities.

More big news! 60% want free parking! They also want vacant shops to be filled and they want a choice of independent shops.

What I like most about the Deloitte report is the way it emphasises the importance of local people having a real say in the future of their towns. When asked, "Who should decide which shops your High Street should include?" 73% said they should. That's why every High Street needs a town team. The people who live there and who care about their place.

Meanwhile my task to champion new High Street initiatives goes on and I meet regularly with the Ministers responsible to crack the whip. I won't give up because people like Tim Little prove to me all of the time that there's a strong future for businesses that create a great experience for people.

Around the Web

Mary Portas Official.

Improving high streets and town centres - Policy - GOV.UK

The Portas Review: An independent review into the future ... - Gov.uk

Mary Portas picks her high street champion - Telegraph

Portas: I have 'taken a battering' for trying to help High Streets - BBC

'Act now or watch our high streets die' warning