Quite a few years ago now when I was cool and even though I say so myself, was admired by many for being at the height of fashion, I used to buy a lot of my clothes from a place called ‘Oasis’ in Birmingham.
Basically, Oasis was many shops within one. It, if I remember correctly was a couple of storeys high and absolutely (in its heyday) crammed with market stalls. The thing was, although it looked like a market and indeed, had that market feel about it, (apart from the strong scent of Marijuana) it was better than a market. What I’m trying to say here is the fact that Oasis didn’t sell tat, the usual market fare. Not only that, it was the place to be. It was fashionable and an entertainment in its own right. There was music, colour, choice and quality.
If, for instance I wanted a pair of ‘Elton John’ high-stacked boots (see above) then, Oasis was where I had to go to get them. Or maybe, by way of a change I wanted my Levis flared more outrageously than usual, then it was Birmingham and Oasis where I would head. It was instinctive. I knew there wasn’t a Hope in Hell that quaint old Stratford-upon-Avon would stock my Levi loons, so it was the price of a train fare (6 Groats and a dustbin lid) to Brum.
Oasis was not only an Aladdin’s cave full of stuff from London, it was also quality. Of that there was no doubt. AND…it was also a day out.
Now, you may be thinking that I’ve lost my marbles by all this harking back to my lurid past but there is reason behind my madness. And it was the not surprising news that Debenhams is looking to close a high number of stores on our boring old high streets, because they say, the nature of shopping has, (like it always does), changed. Rather than blame themselves for their complete lack of initiative, imagination and forward thinking, once again we’re told it’s down to the internet. Whatever they see as the cause of their demise, there’s no argument from me about the state of our town centres. Empty and Boring. Devoid of independent thinking.
So…anyway, I’m thinking, if Debenhams has to go (in Stratford-upon-Avon?) why not fill the space that it leaves empty, with independent retailers? Make it like the Oasis of my memory. Bring in the retailers who can not only outdo the Debenhams Dullness but also the cheap as chips, low quality marketeers we have become used to every Friday in the rain. Retailers who can give us quality but sell it to us in a different way. Shopkeepers with imagination and an attitude that makes us feel welcome and willing to open our wallets and purses for them. Shopkeepers with style and less of the bland corporate approach.
The other benefit being the fact that with enough shop-keepers on the ground floor upwards, there’s hopefully enough profit going around for everyone to chip in with rent for perhaps a more adventurous and understanding, Landlord.
So, there you have it.
The Stratfordian’s simple solution to the rapidly approaching shopping Armageddon caused by Brexit and the change in shopping habits.
You can thank me later.