Shops opening and expanding, queues outside: the High Street picture that’s not making the national news

I recently had an exchange with Iain Nicholson around media coverage of the high street. it followed my recent diatribe about data. I have known Iain for a few years and admired the work he has been doing in towns around Oxfordshire. I asked him if he’d like to put a viewpoint forward for this blog and he agreed readily. What follows is his take (and some photos) on town things.

You can read more about Iain at and he is on Twitter @prbi_Iain

“Carnage, ravaging, crisis, dying! Words that are becoming all too common in the gloomster national media reporting of the High Street and our town centres. Our experience of working across towns tells us it is tough and there are challenges to face. But carnage? Really?


Trouble is, the hysteria is hiding the good and, maybe more importantly, drowning out sensible conversation about what can and needs to be done, and the practical help we need from government and our local councils.

  1. The business rates system, as is widely agreed, is wholly unfit for purpose and we can point to cases where it’s a barrier to empty units being let – especially some of the available reliefs.
  2. Use Classes Guidance is equally unfit for purpose. The A1 category is not just for shops so non-shop uses can take on a ‘shop’ unit without needing to apply, with the predictable: “Oh not another…!” refrain as a result. In fact, it seems even a change to A2 uses, which would’ve been challenged as a loss of A1 before, are going through on the nod, so we see office uses taking on what were shop units, again reducing the retail core which can do so much for the attractiveness and variety of a town centre’s offer. If there were no demand from would-be shop tenants you could make the case, but our experience is that this isn’t so, and retail uses are being blocked out.
  3. Parking Policy – if it was health it would be called a postcode lottery. In (too) many places it’s a cash cow being run by councils with no account being taken of the impact on town centres.
  4. ‘Town Centre First’ Policy – it’s hard to find anyone who believes we have one! In our experience its current outputs are very lengthy council officer reports, developers commissioning consultants to write submissions that ‘answer’ the TCF criteria…and out of town retail centres approved (either first up or on appeal) that then inevitably damage the nearby town centre.

With concerted practical help on these policy shortcomings, the great work being done by town teams, town partnerships and BIDs in our town centres has a better chance to flourish.

Admittedly our own work has us in a small and local sample of town centres, but we won’t be the only ones to report shops opening and/or expanding. And it’s not just the “Oh not another…!” kinds, it’s antique shops, jewellers, toy shops, sports shops, interiors and upcycling stores and more.

And it isn’t just our towns that have seen pictures of queues outside #indie record stores and comic shops and bookshops and butchers.

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We’ve run successful pop-up-shop projects to create a pipeline ready to take on a town’s empties, giving businesses a town centre start to help overcome a significant barrier to start-ups – the typical landlord/agent requirement for 3, 5 or 10-year leases before they have the confidence and track record to warrant that. We take on windows of empty units to create attractive displays to improve their look while work to get them let continues. We’re encouraging businesses to share units, adding an extra offer to attract customers, dividing the rent burden and reducing the time each needs to staff the shop (especially valuable where those involved are designer/makers). We’re promoting what we call #morethanretail, where shop owners with a skill use it to run classes and workshops, as an extra income stream but also to generate a new customer base. We’re facilitating the take up of space by businesses outside the traditional ‘shop’ type (tho some have a retail/sales element) but which, in their own way, attract footfall that in turn supports other elements of the town centre mix. Examples include gyms, reptile rescue centres, galleries run by collaborations of artists, community spaces, kids play cafés, board game hubs & more. And we’re encouraging landlords to split larger empty units because the bulk of the demand we see is from smaller, #indie, businesses, so that splitting helps accommodate to them.

These approaches are all elements of a focus for our town team work on empty units. In each town centre we’ve worked we started with a rigorous audit of its empty shops to see what the barriers are to their being let, then worked with landlords and agents to overcome them. We were told recently by a senior place management leader that we were “sadly rare” in taking this approach. Maybe it’s time it became all too common!”

Posted in Car Parking, Consumers, Creative Places, Government, High Streets, Independents, Local Retailers, Localisation, Oxfordshire, Places, Planning, Policy, Producers, Record stores, Retail Diversity, Retail Economy, Retailers, Small Shops, Small Towns, Spaces, town centre first, Town Centres, Towns, Vacancies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Try Before You Buy: A ‘Returns Tsunami’?

The rise of the internet as a channel of purchase and distribution has been a major transformation for consumers and also for many retailers.  Whilst distance selling including mail order had been present for centuries, the internet offers a radically different proposition overcoming distance and time in many cases.  As can be seen in the growth of sales volumes, consumers have taken to the channel.

There has also been a long tradition of academic research into the area of ‘rogue’ customers.  This has many facets but one angle has focused on customers who buy products (often clothing) in the knowledge they will return them – either after trying them on at home or after use!  This phenomenon existed before the internet, but has grown steadily.  Internet shopping has given such behaviour a tremendous boost.  With rapid delivery and relatively easy return, consumers have begun to order more products, try them on, select or use one or none and then return some or all of them to the retailer.  There are a number of issues with this.

For the consumer there is the possible hassle of sending back products and waiting for reimbursement.  Sometimes there is real cost as well as time in this. Retailers however have been trying to make this as easy as possible for consumers in the belief that this is great customer service which provides loyalty and protects sales.

For retailers there is the obvious real distribution cost, the opportunity cost of lost sales and possible damage, as well as the need to spend time and money on handling returns and organising repayment.  If not careful, the sheer volume of this work skews the business model and affects profitability.

Since starting this blog I have received a number of unsolicited reports and offers of material for promotion or publication.  I tend to be very selective as many have somewhat questionable statistics (and motives) and most are out to sell something.  I am flattered but hopefully not deceived.  Most get read and then forgotten.

But, one the other week did grab my attention.  It was on the ‘returns tsunami’ that the new internet retail model of  “Try Before You Buy” threatens to unleash.  ASOS is one of the leading pioneers of try-before-you-buy, launching its initiative in November 2017 in conjunction with payment partners Klarna. The firm has since been followed by other retailers including Top Man and Schuh.

Top Man

This option enables customers to order multiple items before deciding what they’d like to keep. There’s no upfront cost – shoppers simply pay for anything they keep after a certain number of days, usually thirty days following dispatch. They return anything else that they don’t want, for which they are never charged.  It means that customers can order and try items as they would in-store but crucially they do not have to wait for returns to be processed in order to receive reimbursement for goods that they don’t want.

For a consumer this offers a benefit of not paying for things immediately but the disadvantage of moving closer to the club or subscription model.  It adds another reason to order more products.  For retailers it perhaps provides some control of a current situation but does need to be well managed, certainly in terms of returns. They hope that once consumers have the product in their hands they will either love it or forget to return it and then get charged.  And yes, the authors of this report do have an angle, as they have systems to help make this work.

I am not sure how this will be taken up – by retailers or consumers – but there is a real point here whatever happens.  Internet retailing is changing how we shop and how we think about shopping, and retailers have to cope with the fall out from this.  Being efficient and effective for returns, for both consumer and business reasons, is now part of doing retail and some are doing it better than others. This is what marks it out from old style hire purchase catalogue retailing, where after all you also got the product before you paid for it.

The report can be downloaded here.

Posted in Asos, Availability, Catalogues, Consumer Choice, Internet shopping, Loyalty, Membership, Returns, Supply Chains, Sustainable Development, Try before you buy | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Town Immune”: Data and reporting

On Tuesday afternoon, I was contacted by a journalist (Stephen Naysmith) from The Herald about the upcoming Local Data Company/PwC report on high streets.  He sent me the (then) embargoed press release.  I attach it here for those interested and the piece that ran in The Herald with some comment from me is here.

Wednesday morning saw the story being the lead in some papers and on the front page of others e.g. Scotsman (though the headline seemed to change from the first edition), National, TelegraphThe BBC reported it too under the headline of “no town immune”, as the press release had said.  What really got me was the looseness of reporting in some instances and the blaming of the SNP for the damage to the high streets in the other e.g. Express.

SNP Express

I took to twitter with some thoughts (read from bottom up).

Perhaps the key tweet was:

LDC #2

Given the interactions on Twittter I write down some of my thoughts here. It’s important to note perhaps that I do tend to get agitated about data consistency and comparability (ask my colleagues in the USP consortium) and irritated by the mis-use of data by newspapers and politicians.

So what does the press release show?

  1. The data for Scotland is based on the 8 largest towns and on multiple retailers (5 or more stores) only. This is partial a reflection of the ‘high street’.  There is an issue thus of coverage for Scotland.
  2. The spatial boundaries for these towns and centres are postal towns in Scotland and not town centres as in England and Wales. There is an immediate issue of comparability.
  3. The Scottish decline of -4.5% reported vs elsewhere at -2.6% is calculated on this limited data set for Scotland. There appear to be 8 towns used in Scotland and 492 elsewhere in England and Wales. This seems neither consistent nor comparable.
  4. The figures for rise and decline by sector in the press release e.g. for takeaways, is more ambiguous and I am unclear on what data set this is calculated. It seems to say that 25% of all female clothes shops in Scotland have closed in 2017 and that we increased the number of Chinese takeaways in Scotland by 50% in the same period. I knew the Scottish diet was bad but really?? I assume these figures are derived from the 8 towns used, but given the data is meant to refer only to multiple retailers how can this be?
  5. The press release talks about ‘no town immune’ yet the data for Scotland refers to only 8/479 towns in Scotland. It also does not cover high streets in spatial or operational terms e.g. no independent retailers or small chains are included in the data.
  6. The headlines blaming the SNP can not be laid at the feet of the press release. All regions show decline, though the press release does point out the claimed higher rate in Scotland.  Sub-editors and editors (and proprietors) should carry the blame for this politicisation and for not looking at the data.
  7. Labour and Lib Dem politicians who jumped on the story in the press and blamed the SNP for destroying small businesses and rural towns should really take a look at the data and report/press release before they comment. The data do not cover small businesses and do not cover rural towns in Scotland. Their comments are inaccurate.

All this is a shame as some points from the report and data did need to be made, but got lost in the coverage:

  1. We are seeing declines in multiple outlets in retail – in high streets, retail parks and shopping centres – and there is a retail, and a place/town, issue. But as this blog has noted for years, this is a structural realignment deriving from decades of over expansion and from changing technology and consumer behaviour.  We should not be surprised by what is happening (see also Matthew Hopkinson’s blog) but record and recognise the changes and consider what needs to be done to make places and retail fit for the next decade rather than seek to expect to return to the 1980s or earlier.
  2. The Local Data Company (and we work with them) does a very valuable job in providing data and has a good coverage of places with regular updating. It does work in Scotland in town more than the 8 places in Scotland reported here.  In an ideal world LDC would be funded to provide a census of retail outlets on a regular basis – they have a good base from which to start and links to other, official, sources would only improve this.  But partial data and on non-comparable bases help no-one, especially when the data are willfully misused (which of course is not LDC/PwC’s fault).
  3. Across the country towns/places are trying to develop positively and as behaviours change meet the needs in retail and other sectors. Some of this involves building new business, supporting independents and seeking innovation and diversity in retail and across sectors. Some of this is Scotland having a stronger rates relief system for independent and small businesses than elsewhere.  Narrow foci or political posturing fails citizens across the board.

No town immune – perhaps not; but not on this evidence and certainly not on some of this reportage. Check the press release and the coverage and judge for yourself.



Posted in Academics, Closure, Data, Government, High Streets, Independents, Internet, Local Data Company, Online Retailing, Places, Retail Failure, Retailers, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Scottish Retailing, SNP, Town Centres, Towns, Understanding Scottish Places, Vacancies | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Tartan Cents: Linking the Scottish Global Diaspora


The Scottish Diaspora is extensive and has an active engagement with Scotland.  Having lived in the US and seen Highland Games and other Scottish links, this lineage and linkage is obviously tangible. It is also this weekend the 20th Anniversary of New York Tartan Week, something which has been growing steadily.

Despite the visible presence of Scots and Scottish heritage in the US, the question was whether something even more tangible could be created? From discussions between Phil Prentice, Chief Officer, Scotland’s Towns Partnership and Rob St. Mary, Director of Outreach at Patronicity, Detroit, the idea of Tartan Cents was born. The concept was initially unveiled at the Scotland’s Towns Conference in Paisley in November 2017.

The formal launch of Tartan Cents is today.

Tartan Cents is a pilot programme designed to create a platform to mobilise Scotland’s US based diaspora through an innovative grant funding platform that will seek support for three iconic Scottish regeneration projects.

US-based Patronicity’s platform supports community crowd-granting for towns and cities across the US. Working with Scotland’s Town Partnership, Tartan Cents will seek contributions to link up Scottish diaspora around the world to strengthen community links in the homeland by building bridges and sharing stories, focusing on one of three pilot projects. Tartan Cents is founded on the premise that Scotland matters well beyond her borders.

Rob St. Mary of Patronicity, said:

“Patronicity has helped dozens of communities in the United States create better places to live, work, and play through the power of crowdgranting over the past 5 years.

“We are honoured that our first international foray is Scotland, for several reasons. First, we know the innovative spirit of Smith, Watt, Carnegie, and so many others still burns bright inside today’s Scots. That fire can help make stronger, more vibrant communities for all.

Second, a very personal one, Scotland is the homeland of my mother who emigrated to the U.S. with my aunt and grandparents in 1970. I still have close family and ties in Scotland. I feel many of us who share this great heritage have sought a meaningful way to connect back home.

“I see Tartan Cents, in partnership with local communities, as a way to give back to a place that has given us so much.”


Pilot Projects

The three pilot projects are ‘The Forbes Legacy, Pittencrieff House Project,’, the ‘Adam Smith Birthplace Initiative’ and the ‘Spirit of Scotland’ project based in Ayrshire. Each project has already secured thousands of pounds in match funding and donations to seek to reach their fundraising targets.



“The Dunfermline based Pittencrieff House project is inspired by General John Forbes’ legacy. Pittencrieff House, which stands in Pittencrieff Park near to the birthplace of Andrew Carnegie, was the family home in Scotland. From here, General Forbes left to fight for what is now modern America and to found the city of Pittsburgh in 1785.

The house is a living symbol of our Scottish-American shared history, yet it is all closed up. With generous support, we can jointly bring about the transformation which will allow our community and your heritable community to access its unique transatlantic story.

The aim is to create community events, education projects, exhibitions and vibrant activity to make the house the essential hub of this Park for all.”




adam smith

“The Adam Smith Global Foundation are seeking to connect the past, the present and the future of the ‘Son of Kirkcaldy, Father of Nations’.

Kirkcaldy is the birthplace of world renown philosopher and economist. The Birthplace initiative is seeking to raise £100,000 to support and continue Smith’s heritage and legacy, which started nearly 300 years ago. ‘The Wealth of Nations’ was first published in 1776, the same year as the Declaration of Independence, influencing America’s Founding Fathers.

Their international ask is to purchase and return Adam Smith’s garden back to its former glory as an 18th Century Merchant’s Garden, and for Smith – the boy, the man, the philosopher, and the economist, to be brought back to life using augmented reality technology.”




Spirit of scotland

“Spirit of Scotland will be an Augmented Reality Town Trail, based in Girvan, South Ayrshire, six miles from the Trump Turnberry Resort and Golf Course. By incorporating clever digital content, easily accessible from smartphones and tablets and a sign-posted trail which leads you through wonderfully-interpreted stopping points, the project will be creating something special for the enjoyment of the entire community.

The intention is to create this trail during 2018, to coincide with the 350th Anniversary of Girvan receiving its historic Burgh Status. The trail will walk in the footsteps of Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland in 1306 and learn about the spider which inspired him to keep fighting. March forward in time to explore the life of Robert Burns, Scotland’s national poet, who produced traditional ballads, romantic songs and thought-provoking poems and re-live the lives of local fisher-folk, the Irish weavers, whisky smugglers and hear stories about the man-eating cannibal called Sawney Bean.”



The Tartan Cents Pilot project launches Friday 6 April and runs to Friday 4 May. It is available to view (and to donate) at 

A fuller overview document can be downloaded here.

You can also find Tartan Cents at @TartanCents #TartanCents

Tartan Cents Cover


Posted in Buildings, Campaigns, Collaboration, Heritage, Places, Public Realm, Scotland, Scottish Diaspora Tapestry, Tartan Cents, Towns | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2000 and Counting

Timpson 2000

This just popped up in my Twitter timeline; a tweet from James Timpson, announcing that Timpson’s had just opened their 2000th store.  Now I am pretty sure that Twitter timelines reflect personality traits (hello, Cambridge Analytica, I’ll save you the trouble, I’m a grumpy old man who loathes Donald Trump), and so this was a beacon of light in a morass of dead high streets, upcoming CVAs and closing down sales.

So it stood out….. for all the right reasons.

If you haven’t read John Timpson’s book on the business, you should.  And you might also ponder on their remarkable work with, and track record of, employing ex-offenders.  This is a business that is doing all the right things, for very good reasons (though the passport photo they took of me in their Stirling store the other week was such a travesty it will never see the light of day – though that’s probably my, not their, fault).

The tweet did make me reflect however that amongst all the retail doom and gloom there are businesses that are thriving and doing well, opening stores and meeting customer needs.  It is just that there seem to be so few (or relatively few) of them.

I had intended to write about CVAs and the current wave of closures – Maplins, Toys R Us, Carpetright, Mothercare, New Look and all those fancy burger and other food and beverage outlets.  That is all happening and is devastating for those employees involved.

Toys R Us closure.jpg

There is a current vogue in this, to say that the high street is not dead.  But the dualism that is presented – you’re wrong it’s not dead as there are shops on the high street – is far too simplistic an argument and does not reflect the reality.  Places are suffering and are changing, and this is not a quick fix.  We will not go back to the high streets (or retail parks for that matter) of the past but neither will they disappear.  They will morph and alter and the good ones will – like Timpson’s – thrive by understanding the customer, the business and the opportunities.

But, for a change it might be nice simply to recognise that some retailers are doing fine.  And Timpson getting to 2000 is quite a milestone. Long may it last.


Posted in Competition, Consumer Change, CVA, High Streets, Leadership, Retail Change, Retail Failure, Retailers, Service Quality, Store Closures, Timpsons, Towns, Turnaround | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Talking Shops at The Engine Shed


On a number of occasions this blog has covered aspects of the past and in particular ghostsigns and historic shops and shopfronts.  Across Scotland (and beyond) there is an enduring fascination for, and concern with, our retail history.

I was delighted therefore to accept an invitation from Dr Lindsay Lennie (@historicshops) to speak at an event to mark the launch of an exhibition on Scotland’s historic shops and shopfronts.  I was even more pleased that it meant I got to see the exhibition on day one and to present at the excellent Engine Shed in Stirling.


Unfortunately, I had to miss the first session of the morning, but I am told it pointed to untapped resources on our retail history at local and national levels.  Having had some students look at a small part of what Stirling Archives can offer, this is a huge opportunity waiting to be explored.

The second session was devoted to improvements on the ground and used examples of the problems and the benefits to be had from investing in historic shop fronts.  The example of Falkirk’s approach can be seen in this booklet. This is not easy – or cheap – but the rewords for shops and places can be great (as the photos below show from Paisley).  This was followed by a discussion of the development of the Talking Shops exhibition and the launch of the exhibition video.


Post-lunch saw a whistle stop tour of Co-operative store architecture from Lynn Pearson (@lynnpearson67), providing a fascinating overview of some magnificent small and large stores.  I hope the book on this does see the light of day soon.  It will add to a canon including Woolworths (and also here).

Lindsay Lennie then switched focus to store interiors and demonstrated all too vividly the dangers we face.  As I know from our work on Sanders, finding interiors is much harder than exteriors.  To realise that so many currently existing interiors are not protected, shows how fragile our history has become (a nice example from Lindsay is shown below).  This linked to Lynn Pearson’s similar point about murals on stores (and see the current issue in Hull).


As for me, well I lowered the tone by talking about present and future retail.  I trod my well-worn path of retail change and (overheads here) but then tried to explore and suggest that retail history can be used to promote an experience in a place and experiential retailing.  We need to be selective – and that is an issue – but we can harness the past to provide stimuli for the present and the future.

The exhibition itself, like many historic shops, is small but perfectly formed.  It is well worth a visit (as is the Engine Shed) and takes viewers through the issues of the development of retailing, the materials and designs used in historic shopfronts and provides some thoughtful points about history and places across Scotland.  The exhibition runs to the 22nd June and is free.

One local item caught me eye – a Gilded Beaver from King Street in Stirling. It really is a loss to streetscapes when signs such as this were removed. “Please note that following some interactions via Twitter it seems that the sign was on 3 King Street and not 4).


As noted before in this blog, resources for further reading on this topic in Scotland are readily available.

Posted in Architecture, BHS, Buildings, Falkirk, Ghost Signs, High Streets, Historic Shops, History, Retail History, Scotland's Town and High Streets, Shopfronts, Signage, Stirling, Streets, Streetscapes, Urban History, Woolworths | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

1967 and All Things Retail

2017 was the 50th Anniversary of the opening of the University of Stirling. There were a number of celebrations and activities, as well as periods of reflection. One of the events on campus was an exhibition about 1967. This involved items from our collection being brought together, as well as reflections by various academics on the events of 1967 in their own subject areas. These reflections are still going on.

In my case, I was asked to write about retail events in 1967 and my comments were put on display. What I had missed however, was that they were also made available in a blog. Having just seen this (my fault entirely), I have reblogged the piece below (thanks to Sarah Bromage) with some additional links.


1967 and All Things Retail


Retailing 50 years ago would in many ways be familiar to people today, but in other ways has been utterly transformed. The act of shopping is predominantly the same, though the stores and shops are very different. The pre-decimalisation, cash not credit card focused retail sector, operated mainly through small shops in local high streets organised in a rigid urban hierarchy. The out-of-town retailing revolution was just beginning, with the concepts of superstores and regional shopping centres in their infancy. Consumer durables were being transformed into mass commodities. The refrigerator was spreading across homes, accounting for the 1967 introduction of Captain Birds Eye as the ‘face’ of fish fingers. Cars were becoming everyday items and Asda’s first discount petrol station was introduced in Halifax to their ninth store. More widely there was debate over whether self-service petrol stations were safe and would be introduced generally. Travel and distance would never be the same, including for shopping.


1967 was a pivotal point in the retail revolution. The changing operations and locations/forms might be in their infancy, but the price revolution was being hotly contested. Resale price maintenance (RPM), by which manufacturers and suppliers controlled the retail prices of products, had been abolished in 1964. However exemptions could be sought through the courts and 1967 saw legal battles to remove or retain RPM in products as diverse as cigarettes, sweets and electrical items. A recurring fear expressed in court was that unfettered price competition by retailers would advantage the new supermarket companies and lead to the death of small stores such as confectioners. This was a battle over which mattered more, small shopkeepers or consumers.

Prices were also in the news at the end of the year as the pound was devalued. Harold Wilson notably commented that ‘it does not mean that the pound here in Britain, in your pocket or purse or in your bank, has been devalued’. This response to trade deficit, increasing unemployment, falling productivity, a weak economy and creditor pressure, did stoke inflation and thus impact demand and shops. The state of the economy was also why actions to reduce prices for consumers was significant. This sounds all too familiar today.

Britain’s First Shopping Centre?

On the 25th May 1967 Princess Margaret and Lord Snowden formally opened Phase I of the Cumbernauld Shopping Centre. This huge multi-storey building (a ‘megastructure’) acting as a town centre, including retailing, was reported as the UK’s first shopping centre, though it was much more. Certainly it was the first of its ‘type’. Built over a dual carriageway the new centre consigned the old urban ways to the past, separating functions and focusing all urban retail in the one place, at the pedestrian heart of the settlement. Voted Britain’s most hated building in 2005 and a serial winner of the worst town centre in Scotland’s Carbuncle Awards, the 1967 promise of a ‘town for tomorrow’ never really lived up to the vision. Its approach though does live on in our regional shopping centres.


The Co-operative Movement

It may be hard to believe nowadays but in 1967 the Co-op was a retail giant with a large and significant market share (My Special issue “History” of the Post-War Co-operative Movement from 1994, can be downloaded here). It had been battling to modernise for a decade as competition increased, but in 1967, significant steps forward were made. A young, dynamic, external appointee, Philip Thomas became Chief Executive of the Cooperative Wholesale Society, sparking board resignations. Thomas promoted radical merger and reorganisation and, throughout the year battles were waged over his proposed future direction. Consolidation and merger of the very small local Co-op societies in order to compete with the national chains and brands did accelerate. Thomas died in an accident in 1968 and is widely regarded as the ‘lost leader’ for the Co-op, raising questions of what might have been if his plans had been followed through at the pace he proposed.

One legacy however from Thomas, announced in December 1967, and launched with an advertising campaign in early 1968, was the introduction of a national brand for the Co-operative (‘the clover leaf’), replacing the myriad of older local and other symbols, trademarks and brands. It became a brand icon for several decades, but could not stem the Co-op decline on its own. In 2017 an updated version of this famous brand was brought back to lead the business.



The Hole in the Wall

The summer of 1967 might be known for many things, but quietly, at a Barclays branch in Enfield, on the 27th June, the world’s first public cash machine or ATM was unveiled. Conceived as a convenience to enable access to cash outwith the (restricted) bank opening hours, the cashpoint has revolutionised consumer access to cash and indeed banking itself. The Barclay’s ATM was a limited, token based, system producing a maximum of £10 on the use of a four digit PIN, and has clearly since grown in sophistication (though now under threat from cards and contactless payments). 1967 is thus the start of the consumer and banking card based revolution.

Posted in 1967, ATMs, Cashpoints, Consumers, Cooperative Group, Cooperatives, Corporate History, Cumbernauld, Fish, History, New Towns, Pricing, Retail History, Shopping Centres, University of Stirling, Urban History | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment