Caffe Nero - we should be welcoming them
With regards to the debate over Caffe Nero, the premises concerned were being used for trading by a large multi-national clothes store. The reason that they closed their UK Flagship store was because of the unacceptable rent increase placed on them by their landlord. I did not notice Marlborough Town Council or the Chamber of Commerce helping Dash to stay in the town.
Caffe Nero purchased the entire premises, and whilst a bit naughty for not having all the T’s crossed and I’s dotted, they planned to refurbish and also trade, just a different product! Now, they probably do need to be fined or slapped on the wrist I agree, but consider the following… Marlborough could have had another empty shop front, it could have had another charity shop, it could have had another women’s clothes store (yawn from all the chaps), but no, a well-respected national brand decided to invest in Marlborough, creating employment, and clearly a place where the people of Marlborough want to be!
You would think this was a good situation for Marlborough Town Council, a nice new shop, fully re-furbished, paying rates, open seven days a week, providing a service that no other shop in Marlborough is able to.
However, the negative attitudes of the Town Council persist and they protest! This is the same town council that reports suggest internal conflict abounds, wanted to spend millions on the town hall. This is the same town council that provide atrocious facilities for the disabled and young mothers with buggies. The pavements in Marlborough are a disgrace, the few shops that you can access with a wheelchair are few and far between. I guess young mothers must despair! So, here we have a new coffee shop, that is large, bright, cheerful with easy access for buggies and wheelchairs; this deserves applause. I can at last take my disabled daughter into Marlborough and easily access a coffee shop and take her out to eat in a facility that has proper accessible toilets. We should be thanking them for coming to Marlborough, not lambasting them!
If you are one of the UK’s 95 percent of small/micro businesses, you can now hold 1:1 meetings, in comfort, and utilise their free Wi-Fi. This is something I have taken advantage of many times. All small business owners in the area must be delighted…and you can do this in nice pleasant surroundings with suitable refreshment whilst conducting meetings.
I would rather have hoped that the Marlborough Chamber would be positive about this exciting development and be fully supportive. Another opportunity is for the Chamber to be consulting with those other business owners that may be complaining about Caffe Nero taking “their” business. The only serious competition to them is Costa, are they complaining? No, they know they have to up their game. At Costa you have to wade through piles of smokers all sitting outside, clearly it is not wheelchair of buggy friendly, all phone signals stop at the door and there is no Wi-Fi. They have been asked to provide this service for several years, but the answer is always the same “the area manager says no!” Well, now he can count the lost custom! When a company provides the right service, customers will buy the product. Some of the smaller coffee providers should look long and hard about their own service provision before complaining. Those offering a niche, quaint service will not lose out, the same people will make a choice. The Chamber should be helping them devise new service strategies to win customers.
No-one has a divine right to have a shop in Marlborough with no competition, that is not the way this country operates. So, instead of alienating Caffe Nero, we should be welcoming them to the community with open arms. Yes, a slap on the wrist, but no more. The alternatives are far worse. Encourage the town council to actually do something for the people of Marlborough, not themselves, an excellent opportunity for the Chamber to sell consulting and welcome a new member, almost a win-win situation.
As icing on the cake, the coffee tastes good, the food is nice, the staff very well trained and pleasant, a general all round win for Marlborough.