The blog

“The object of a retail tradesman is to get as many people as he possibly can in a street”

More and more cities around the world are waking up to the fact that it’s people who shop, not cars. Designing streets for cars, and not people, can therefore reduce retail takings. Take Regent Street in London, for example. It’s one of London’s prime shopping streets but it’s not very friendly to pedestrians. Instead, it’s friendly to cars and buses. Pedestrians who wish to cross from one side of the street to the other either have to dodge through the thronging traffic or queue up, like sheep, in a holding pen at a pedestrian crossing. No doubt some shops don’t get as much custom as they would have done had there been immediate access for those spying the shop from the other side of Regent Street.

Many of London’s shopping streets should be either pedestrianised completely or the carriageway throttled, leaving a narrow passage for motorised vehicles and much more space given over to pedestrians and non-motorised road users, such as cyclists.

Such thoughts are nothing new. Making shopping streets friendly for shoppers has been something talked about, but often not actioned, for a long time. For instance, in 1894, Mr Tewson, a valuer, gave the following response to a House of Lords committee on town improvements:

“It does not follow that because the street is wider than it has been that it is necessarily a better street for trade. I think that in London the narrow streets are very often the better for trade. Take Old Bond Street for instance. I would rather, if I were a shopkeeper, be in Old Bond Street than in Regent Street, because if you are walking up and down Old Bond Street you can see… a shop window if it is on the other side of the way and you have only two lines of carriages to contend with…The object, I think, of a retail tradesman is to get as many people as he possibly can in a street, and to keep them there as long as he can. The effect of a wide street is to give facilities for quick traffic and to get the people in and out of the street as quickly as possible.”

One thought on ““The object of a retail tradesman is to get as many people as he possibly can in a street”

  1. p.megson / Reply December 10, 2012 at 11:32 am

    I stumbled on this when following a link on Twitter from a response by Mark Treasure to one of your tweets.
    In relation to this, and the following post re parking on private property, you might get a flavour of how ignorant (in my view) small shopkeepers (who perceive parking controls as a threat to their businesses while apparently not noticing the existential threat posed to them by the arrival of chainstores, or the sheer unattractiveness of a car-saturated shopping street), and a handful of individuals (who have bought homes which have no provision for parking their cars, and no possibility of parking on-street in front of their own homes, believing that they should be entitled to park in front of someone else’s home instead, and are now howling because those other residents think differently and have lobbied for controls) have descended into a kind of mob-rule to have their way over the wishes of what I am fairly sure would be the majority of their neighbours. Knowing that blog posts can create pingbacks I won’t give the link but it is phonetically tripledoubleyewhaslemereparkingdotcom.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *