Category Archives: The Port for Thought

The Death of the Dinosaurs?

Or perhaps this entry should be entitled The Niche strikes back! ?

Over the last couple of years London and other metropolitan areas have witnessed a truly remarkable renaissance: The niche is back. And it is back with a vengeance! Recent experience and research highlights that the future context for retailing in town centres will be very different to that we have been used to in recent years. It is clear that local authorities, retailers and others who care about our high streets and town centres need to adapt to modern trends and the changing economic landscape. Small is beautiful, once again. And it makes sense: The consumer has become by far more sophisticated and is seeking out quality combined with a pleasurable shopping experience on a human scale. Still feeling comfy in a Tesco hypermarket? Doubtful.

People like visiting and shopping in historic areas. At a time when competitive advantage is ever-more important, a focus on town centre and high street heritage can be an important part of retaining or even creating successful places and ‘destinations’. Small scale interventions and strategies, such as the proliferation of the ‘pop-up’ shop, have been embraced across the spectrum, from student initiative to high-profile fashion designer.

This phenomenon does not only apply to the retail sector. Antonia Oprita of – an indispensable source of information – is, as usual, ahead of the curve and picked up on a new book by Gervais Williams: “The Future Is Small”. I strongly recommend readers to tune in!

Here a list of small business ventures that have not only prospered throughout the recession but, indeed, have done well out of it. Some of them might not have even been around today, had it not been for the great ‘shake-out’! The list will be expanded as we go along and contributions are much welcome! Please e-mail your suggestion to: – Thank you!

Paul Craven Partners Ltd: Business consultant specialising in Behavioural Economics, working in an advisory capacity with prestigious companies across a variety of industries. A truly lateral outfit, well ahead of the curve. Tesco et al: Ditch McKinsey and call Craven Partners!

The Wild Kitchen: Established in 2012 by Lucia Stuart who combines 25 years as a professional cook with an in-depth knowledge of edible wild plants, shellfish & algae.

McConnell Fine Books: Antiquarian book dealer specialising in important titles, mostly literary and historical in original leather bindings, in exceptional condition.

Bloomsbury Publishing PLC: Bloomsbury Publishing is a leading independent publishing house established in 1986. It has companies in London, New York, Sydney and Delhi. The publicly listed company, best known for discovering  JK Rowling of Harry Potter fame, remains a relative ‘minnow’ in the field. Quite remarkable that it has survived as an independent publisher, a world now dominated by massive media conglomerates such as Pearsons and News Corp International. A true risk taker!

The Idler: Established in 1993, The Idler is a literary and philosophical magazine edited by Tom Hodgkinson with headquarters in Notting Hill, London. The magazine has since enjoyed a number of incarnations. For three years it was published by the Guardian newspaper, then for a year by the publishers of Manchester United magazine. Following a fallow year, the pair produced a bi-annual book version of the magazine independently. In 2014 The Idler launched as an online magazine. A truly unique enterprise, well ahead of its time!

Frank Ward Wines: Kent based wine merchant, consultant, wine taster and publisher of the Oeno-File column, Frank Ward enjoys a global following. His tastebuds are legendary.

Frith Street Films: A Soho-based production company, run by the brother and sister team of David and Jacqui Morris, specializing in feature-length documentaries.  Their first film, McCullin, was nominated for two Baftas. Their second, Attacking the Devil, a film about legendary newspaper editor Sir Harold Evans, won the jury prize at this year’s Sheffield Doc/Fest, and has been bought by Miramax, who plan a cinema release of it in the spring of 2014. The company is currently working on a film about the life of Rudolf Nureyev.

© Magda George