This tale of two mounds proves very instructive - Kevin Buckle
There were not one but two mounds in the news this week with an artificial mound opening on Oxford Street in London and Edinburgh’s street performers complaining their spaces on The Mound had been usurped by a pop-up Johnnie Walker bar.
I have never understood why street performers think they have a God-given right to pick the best spaces in the city centre. I have only crossed paths with them once and that was when they were asked to relocate to the Grassmarket for at least some of their performances. They all refused.
It was clear they had no interest in helping create footfall but just wanted to be where the greatest number if people could be found which actually, even before the pandemic, was not necessarily the best idea.
The problem for the shops on the High Street is that a big circle of folk congregate around the performer and block people trying to get past who are then so intent on simply finding a way around them that they pay no attention to the shops. Having said all that The Mound doesn’t really need a pop-up bar either taking business away from the nearby establishments.
As for the Oxford Street Mound at Marble Arch this has genuinely been built with the intention of bringing shoppers back to one of the most famous streets in the world. Ignoring all the obvious issues there have been creating a mound covered in greenery to offer views over the city, the idea that somehow people will flock to pay to ascend basically a staircase and then think that having taken in the views they really must now do some shopping is worryingly stupid by any council’s standard.
Certainly there is no harm trying to attract people to an area but the problem with Oxford Street is said to be that like so many shopping streets now it has mainly the same brands as elsewhere. An attraction isn’t going to change that.
If a shop is to give the customer an experience it is actually for them to find something they weren’t particularly looking for that they really want for themselves or will make a perfect gift. One thing I have noticed as Avalanche now gets more families in the shop than in our previous incarnations is how happy it makes parents to buy their children something they love.
There is of course the alternative in which somebody finds something they have been unable to find elsewhere and always wanted. Not everything is easily available online and not everybody searches online so this happens more than you might think, whether in Avalanche’s case it be a record, a T-shirt or a poster.
A flaw with the St James and its plethora of brands is that you are unlikely to be surprised by anything, unless of course it starts raining heavily. Oxford Street has the same problem as Princes Street in many ways in that only major brands can afford to be there, though seemingly they too have tourist shops that in better times did a roaring trade in snowglobes of London landmarks at a staggering £50.
What would be a good idea is if the marketing people who have such bad ideas had the “experience” of not getting paid when they fail.