Clone town is a global term for a town where the high street or other major shopping areas are significantly dominated by chain stores. The term was coined by the New Economics Foundation (which was the British think tank) in its 2004 report on clone town Britain.

This report entered the public arena at the same time as the Federation of Wholesale Distributors launched its My Shop is Your Shop campaign, and a number of industry executives (myself included) were interviewed on radio and TV about how high street multiples and chain stores were wiping out individuality and entrepreneurialism.

In fact, the think tank report argued that the spread of clone towns is highly damaging to society because of the removal of diversity, and its survey in 2005 estimated that 41% of towns in the UK and 48% of London 'villages' could be considered clone towns, with the trend rising.

Seven years ago the government recognised the problem and for seven years it has hid behind the principle of competitiveness. And today we have the irrepressible Mary Portas, of proven experience and excellent television viewing, charged with saving our retail high street.

I have to say that our retail high street should have been saved at the start of the new century through stronger planning controls and better determination of a true market share in a particular category. I get the feeling that the government's appointment of such a distinguished celebrity advisor is a means of transferring blame and responsibility.

I am confident that at some point in the future the UK will complete its graduation from clone cities and towns to become the first clone country, something that our governments past and present will be able to hold their heads high and clearly state that they created through inaction.

Topics