All Change

May 7th, 2014 by admin Leave a reply »

2014-05-07 11.40.36

Old Street Station has just undergone superficial rebranding (it’s still just a station with a dozen shops) but this station may also become the model for TfL to replace established independent businesses in other tube stations with Pop-up businesses. Our hairdresser, newsagent/printers, shoe shop, clothes shop and phone stall have all gone.  All these independent businesses are (or were) established and mature shops serving longstanding needs for their customers.

The remaining businesses in Old Street Station have more secure leases that pre-dated TfL and have been able to stay. TfL had asked the bookshop to accept a pay out, to leave and give way to another Pop-up unit as well – but we declined the offer.

The electric bike shop, business seminar company, spectacles, pressed juice, and marshmallow Pop-ups are the first replacements; the newcomers are allegedly paying up to four times the existing rents. The Pop-up shop managers that I have talked to are essentially running marketing exercises, using passengers of Old Street Station to gauge reaction to their products. They’re relatively inexperienced if not completely new to the marketplace and so are enthusiastic to learn from their brief visits and  seem to think that the existing shopkeepers and general public are universally excited by their arrival.

There has been an expensive design makeover of the subway tunnels and shop fronts at the same time. TfL are rumoured to have paid in the region of £1,000 per window for some of the shop graphics they’ve had installed and costly security guards are paid to patrol the station for long hours and escort homeless people away from the premises.

The overall tidying up of the infrastructure (after decades of neglect) has been welcomed by everyone, passengers and shopkeepers alike.  But what do the regular commuters and station users really think about losing day to day facilities and supplies in exchange for a sort of rolling exhibition of luxury products (bicycles costing tens of thousands of pounds each!)? Is it merely an inconvenience that you may no longer be able to buy a last minute print-out from a memory stick or have a mobile phone sorted out, have a haircut or buy some new shoes or clothes? Old Street Station’s previous  reputation  as a useful shopping centre in an area of sandwich and coffee chain stores will be knocked back.

If  TfL were to close down their ticket offices too,  to lease them out to Amazon for collection lockers or similar commercial ends, then our tube stations would take on an altogether less useful and more questionable role in passengers’ daily lives.

I would always welcome change for the common good; but wonder who these changes are going to effect and who they are going to profit…

Bookseller of Silicon Roundabout

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