Long live the high street, the customer is king.

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“What butchers?”

‘Richardson and Sons, opposite.’

“Opposite? But there’s nothing left here on Lowfield Street. All the shops are empty.”

‘That one isn’t. We buy our meat in there most weekends.’

I went out with my old school friends on Saturday night. Every six months we get together and have a few beers, a bite to eat, a few more beers, and plenty of laughs.

I’m not really sure what we talk about. We’ve been friends for over twenty years, so conversation flows easily. Playful insults flow easier still. One recurring subject is about why we shouldn’t leave it six months until the next meet up. Another is teasing Nick for his poor attendance rate (which can’t be that bad, we always do it to his face). But on this occasion we were sat in the Royal Siam Thai Restaurant on Lowfield Street, Dartford, talking about the best places to buy meat.

‘I’m telling you, this isn’t like the meat you get from the supermarket. Two chicken breasts from that butchers will feed a family of four.’

“Are you sure they’re not giving you a turkey Dave?”

‘Yes, very droll…’

“Tesco will be knocking it down soon, won’t they?”

‘Well they’ve been there since the early nineteen hundreds, so fair play to them for holding out.’

It’s a contentious issue. Tesco bought up half of Lowfield Street with the intention of knocking it all down and building an 11,000 square metre supermarket. The shopkeepers had to leave.

It upset quite a few local residents.

Tesco then spent about 10 years having a think about it, leaving it desolate and derelict.

That upset the rest.

There’s a perceived personal - yet mutual ownership of a town centre amongst its residents, it’s subtle, but it’s there; my home town, our local pub, my old school, our favourite stomping ground. It’s both daft and delightful in equal measure if you think about it. It connects us, it empowers us, and I think it should be encouraged.

It’s why people get so angry when a third party steps in and damages it.

‘Excuse me, are you ready to order?’

“Yes, we’ll go with your recommendation for six… Sorry. What Dave? A beef salad?… And a beef salad please.”

‘OK, set meal mix for six and a beef salad.’

"Perfect, thanks… Sorry. What Dave? We’ve got try the lamb shank?… Sorry about this, and a lamb shank as well please.”

‘OK, set meal mix for six, a beef salad, and a lamb shank.’

"Anyone else beginning to suspect that Dave owns the butchers and this restaurant?”

So Tesco now has a problem. They face the prospect of investing millions of pounds improving Dartford, without the support of the residents. The same residents they’re hoping to turn into customers.

“There is only one valid definition of business purpose; to create a customer. It is the customer who determines what a business is. It is the customer alone whose willingness to pay for a good or for a service converts economic resources into wealth and things into goods. The customer is the foundation of a business and keeps it in existence.” - Peter Drucker

Tricky. So what should Tesco do now?

Well for a start, they should research the surrounding area thoroughly.

They should put forward a design that is modern yet sympathetic to the history of its location.

They should renovate the existing buildings where possible, and take detail and design cues to inspire features of the new buildings.

They should provide residential accommodation, and lots of parking spaces, and trees, and…

And…

I’ve just read through their planning application documents on the Dartford Borough Council planning site. And they’ve done exactly that.

But we’re upset, they’ve caused this problem, and now we’re expected to be grateful that they’re fixing it?

Let’s all have a good moan about it, lets focus on the negatives, and lets refuse to shop there. Yeah, that’ll teach ‘em!

Maybe though, we could make use of Mr Drucker’s insight: We determine what a business is. It’s our willingness to pay for things that turn them into goods.

The customer is king.

So lets make our requests, and support our local suppliers.

Dear Tesco,

I’d like to be able to buy beer. Not any old beer, I’d like to be able to buy Dartford Wobbler from The Millis Brewing Company in South Darenth.

I’d like the opportunity to buy vegetables from Stanhill Farm in Wilmington.

I’d like Mr Richardson the butcher to be involved in sourcing some meat.

Honey from The Dartford Beekeepers might be nice too…

Perhaps you could allocate an area for Dartford’s market stall holders?

I’ll no doubt order the everyday products online, so you can put that away in your warehouse. But these things, the products where perusal and personal selection matters, I’d like their display to be prominent and proud.

Most importantly, I’d like you to know that I’m happy to pay a fair price for these local products. So please don’t squeeze the suppliers, respect their profit margin. For them, every little helps.

Yours sincerely

Mike

When we’ve made our requests, lets share, support, and publicise them with each other. After all, it’s recommendations from friends that are most likely to hit the spot.

“I tell you what Dave, you’re right. That lamb shank was absolutely delicious. We should come here more often.”

 
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