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Healthy competition on the high street

By Maxine Howe
May 1, 2015

Last night whilst watching BBC West Midlands News, with the enigmatic Nick Owen, we were intrigued by the idea of ‘clustering’ mentioned during the Birmingham Digital Week 2015 article. But does this encourage healthy competition on the high street?

Clustering

It was used in the context of developing a digital creative cluster in the Digbeth area of Birmingham, following “the success of the Jewellery Quarter”. The cluster created in the jewellery quarter is indeed a big success and as many a happy couple will testify it’s a great place to shop for the ring.

We think clustering can work and does indeed have a place in modern society. However we would urge caution that it is not in fact the answer to everything – especially not in the B2B sector.

It got us thinking about things a little closer to home and how our very own Leamington has fared during these trying times of austerity. And how clustering is being considered for the ‘Cultural Quarter’. We are firm believers in competition, and think it is healthy. It encourages businesses to excel and offers customers great breadth of choice.

If you are the only menswear shop in town, you’ve got no competition and this in itself must be good… surely? If a dapper chap is looking for a new shirt, bingo you’ve got a customer – or have you? If you were said dapper chap and needed this new shirt for a rather fabulous party you’d been invited to, would you go down to that one local menswear shop with fingers crossed that he’ll stock the shirt of your dreams, in your size, at the price you want to pay. Or would you hop over to the next town where they have 10 menswear shops in one street, two of which specialise in shirts?

Success breeds success but is polarisation the solution?

Competition is good. We know this all sounds obvious but you’d be suprised by the reaction of some retailers. Our argument is that the greater choice you or your town can offer, the more customers you can attract. Success breeds success. If the town is thriving, your business is more likely to thrive – whatever your offering.

Competition is good and clustering can be great but customers don’t neccessarily want all the retaurants in one quarter, all the womenswear in another with menswear and childrenswear sectioned off downtown. Sometimes it makes for a lovely day to walk out of one store and pop into a bar next door for a quick drink/snack before continuing shopping. After all, variety is the spice of life.

Ditto on the B2B side, maybe us creative industries don’t all want to be lumped next door to another design firm. Although we are more than happy to collaborate at the right times.

Oh, and contrary to the aforementioned BBC News article Nick & team, Birmingham is not the only digital solution in the Midlands, Leamington wasn’t christened ‘The Silicon Spa‘ for nothing.

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