Wimbledon Is Clone Town, According To Survey

There is little diversity in Wimbledon town, says report

Wimbledon is a 'Clone Town', according to the widest ever Clone Town survey results released this week by leading independent think-tank, nef (new economics foundation).

The Clone Town Britain Index measures both the identity and diversity of outlets on the core of the high street. It weights more for identity because ownership is critical to the health of the local economy and community. But diversity is important, and so is also included.

Towns scoring below 50 on the scale – like Wimbledon - are classified as Clone Towns by the report. More than half of the stores counted are chains, and there is little diversity.

Towns scoring over 65 are classified as 'Home Towns', where almost two-thirds or more of the stores are independent, and there is a wide range of outlets. In between are ‘Border Towns,’ which are neither highly homogenised, nor strongly independent and diverse.

Paul Squires, the report's co-author, said: "The towns most dependent on the big chains and out of town stores have proven to be most vulnerable to the economic crisis. The government’s “Big Society” idea cannot be built on these fractured local economies, represented so clearly by the empty shop fronts along our high streets.

"It's not all doom and gloom. We found many towns that are thriving with initiatives to retain local diversity. The local currency schemes in Lewes and Brixton, for example; community buy-outs of post offices and pubs from Yorkshire to Cornwall; and loyalty cards for shopping at independent retailers from London to Penzance."

Elizabeth Cox, co-author of the report added: "We need to completely re-evaluate what we use our high streets for now that the age of mass retail is juddering to a halt. Our high streets could become places where shopping is just one small part of a rich mix of activities including working, sharing, exchanging, playing and learning new skills. As the hub of our communities, the high street could become the place where we begin to build a more sustainable world."

Wimbledon Town Centre management has made strides in putting Wimbledon on the map and promotes the town and a variety of events taking place on its website at: Wimbledon Town Centre. The Going For Gold campaign is also aiming to boost the town's profile in the run-up to the 2012 London Olympics.

Diana Sterck, Chief Executive of Merton Chamber of Commerce, said: "Wimbledon's position has improved since the last report in 2005.

"Through Wimbledon Town Centre Management our aim is for Wimbledon not being just a shopping destination, but also a place where people meet, eat, undertake other activities and spend their leisure time. We believe this is the right approach to achieve a sustainable future for the town and, at the moment, Wimbledon is buzzing with activity and lots of visitors.

"This month New Wimbledon Theatre celebrates its centenary as one of the region’s leading live entertainment venues, showcasing the best West End, local and touring productions from across the UK each and every year.

"In October we have "Sports Week" activity in the town centre in half term and in November we have the annual Winter Wonderland. These activities are examples of the added value activity for both residents and businesses alike. "

Town Centre Manager of neighbouring Putney, Stephen WallaceThe Town Centre Manager of neighbouring Putney, Stephen Wallace (left), has also defended Putney's identity after East Putney came near the bottom. He said: "For those of us that know and love Putney, and have seen it progressively improve over many years, the NEF ‘2010 Clone Town Report’ makes slightly depressing reading and doesn’t seem to reflect what we see locally at all.

"I'm sure my hardworking colleagues in the Putney Partnership (who give their time voluntarily), strongly supportive Councillors and Wandsworth Council would feel likewise. If we didn’t have the likes of Next, Marks and Spencer, the new Topshop/Top Man, Sainsburys, the new concept TK Maxx Woman, and Waitrose etc, people would be right to ask whether Putney was a town of significance at all, yet the report seems to condemn towns like Putney for it. We have both national AND local shops, together with a fantastic range of cafes, pubs and restaurants to cater for the very diverse range of customers that Putney serves."

September 21, 2010