nef\’s Clone Town report

In which we subcontract out our response to a reader via email:

I can\’t be arsed, but if you want to take the piss out of this: the claim that Cambridge is a \”clone town\” is spectacularly dumb.

I mean, just go there. It\’s full of 15th Century buildings, and unique churches, and libraries and ancient passageways and shit. Who cares if you can only get a coffee from fecking Starbucks; it\’s about as much of a \”clone town\” as I\’m a \”clone man\” because i\’ve got a dick.

Fucking idiots.

…also, their methodology is (unsurprisingly) pretty fucking stupid.

They\’ve just counted up the number of chain stores on the ONE main high street – in Cambridge that\’s \”Petty Curry\”, and yes there are a lot of chains.

But if you walk 2 mins round the corner, you will find a vast array of independent shops, cafes and bars.

What a bunch of fucks.

Please note this is not from some Tory babyeating and kitten torturing clone of mine, this is from a very much lefty student type who has even been known to work at leftside NGO/think tank thingies. Although admittedly, not one quite as barking as the nef.

Oh, and just one little thing that an \”economics\” foundation might have thought relevant. This \”market\” thing we all keep talking about is a means of experimentation. Well, we could sell beef by throwing in on the floor, stamping on it and then allowing the fly encrusted remnants to hang in the window. Hmm, no, that doesn\’t seem to work. So, err, how\’s about buying in the best value (yes, that\’s a combination of both quality and price!) stuff that we can find, packaging it attractively and then seeing what happens? Now, if that model works, if customers are attracted to it…you know, this economics thing that the aim is to get the consumers what they want…then we actually want this second model to spread, don\’t we?

That is, if peeps have hit on a method of retailing, of a method of providing the consumer with what the consumer wants at a price the consumer is willing to pay, then we\’d really rather like the people who know how to do that to open stores in towns across the land.

That is, we\’d really rather like there to be chains of shops. For by their very existence they are showing that they produce what the consumer wants at what the consumer wants to pay better than not having chains of shops.

They, err, maximise utility, you know, this thing which is the aim of the whole economics thing, new, foundational or not? The allocation of scarce resources in the manner which most increases utility?

6 thoughts on “nef\’s Clone Town report”

  1. There’s another aspect to this too. If we say we don’t want clone towns then we are saying we want towns to be different, right? OK, so my city has a WH Smith, a Dixons, a Superdrug, a McDonalds, and a Vision Express on the High Street. Fine retailers, all.

    The next city is 17 miles away. We want it to be different from my city, right? So that city cannot have a WH Smith, a Dixons, a Superdrug, a McDonalds or a Vision Express. Otherwise its High Street would look my High Street. That’s fine with me. But hard cheese on the people in the next city. Fancy having to travel 17 miles for a Big Mac?

    Or perhaps we divvy the retailers up. Some are allowed in my city and some in the city down the road. If so, then who is the mighty panjandrum who decides whether it’s for my Big Mac or my 46″ plasma TV that I have to travel 17 miles? And do I have any say in the matter?

  2. Leo,

    The nefs seem to think that Petty Curry counts as “The High Street”. Even though it’s, er, a shopping centre.

    And what’s “clone” about Heffers book shop? OK, it’s owned by Blackwells. But it looks and feels distinctive, and is a sort of Cambridge landmark just as the mega-Blackwells is in Oxford. Etc.

    What gets on my nerves – as usual – about the nefs, is their complete lack of appreciation for any kind of practical policy outcome their “research” might suggest.

    I mean, what are we Suppose To Unite And Do about the clone towns? Send in the troops to break up WH Smith? Institute decrees such that there will be no more than 2 Cafe Neros in any one county?

    It’s just stupid moaning, based on the premise “clone towns are wrong”, with the concept “clone town” already decided, no appreciation – as Tim highlights – how this situation may have come about, and no sense of how utterly impracticable and MAD any interventionist policy to alter the situation is likely to be.

    Fittingly, this goes for pretty much everything the nefs release.

    What a bunch of fucks.

  3. To paraphrase the Four Yorkshiremen, “We used to dream of living in a Clone Town”. Instead we’re stuck in the worst shopping centre of any of the post-war new towns, with sod-all of interest for the average shopper. It’s where the Devil would send Trinny & Susanna for an eternity of misery, having money to spend and nothing to spend it on. Clone Town? Bring it on!

  4. Paul Sagar,

    What gets on my nerves – as usual – about the nefs, is their complete lack of appreciation for any kind of practical policy outcome their “research” might suggest.

    On their website, they seem to suggest that there should be changes to planning law and limits on the market share of supermarkets.

    What I find objectionable is that people like the NEF would consider themselves as socialists, you know, people who supposedly have the interests of the poor at heart. Yet any comparison of chain and non-chain towns would show that it’s cheaper to shop in chain towns.

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