Town market a ‘limp lettuce’, says retail expert

Retail guru Corin Birchall
Retail guru Corin Birchall

Harborough’s indoor market is a “limp lettuce” and the River Welland represents a “missed opportunity”, a town centre review has concluded.

But retail consultant Corin Birchall, who carried out the study as part of his campaign to save the British High Street, also believes the town is enjoying a “recession-resilient performance” overall.

The Lutterworth-based expert, who runs Kerching Retail, compared Harborough to Brighton in his assessment, suggesting that it was a town of two halves with independent retailers setting the bar high and the national shops lagging behind.

He said: “Harborough is a town enjoying a recession-resilient performance overall.

“The vacant unit count is pretty low, the retail mix is good and house prices, although not buoyant, seem to generally holding out.”

The self-styled High Street Expert is urging the town to take full advantage of the £910,000 being ploughed into improving the market and the river, and for the public to get involved and shape their town.

He said: “The market is a real let down, it’s a limp lettuce.

“Half the stalls are empty and the food traders were packing up at 2pm on both my recent visits. It felt like a cross between a craft market and a car boot sale. It lacks sounds and scent or any theatre.

“The River Welland also represents a missed opportunity, there should be leisure and alfresco dining next to it.”

Mr Birchall said it was interesting how national retailers and the owner-run specialists battled it out.

He added: “In most towns the nationals set the bar. In Harborough it was a different story. The nationals were bland, in need of investment and staff training – WH Smiths being an example.

“It reminds me of a mini Brighton, who would want to visit the nationals when you can walk through the Lanes?”

Mr Birchall will be expanding on his thoughts in a new column The Retail Sleuth in the Mail’s business pages in the coming months.

Mr Birchall works as a retail consultant for his company Kerching Retail. He has worked in specialist retail his whole career, starting at 16 for the British Shoe Corporation, followed by Halfords, Independent Record Stores and Musical Instrument Retail.

He launched Kerching in 2010 after eight years as a retail sales and marketing manager for Roland, a world leader in the design, manufacture and distribution of electronic musical instruments, where he set up a thriving division from conception to more than 500 stores worldwide.

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