"Now is the winter of our discount tent" - Retail monotony in the Bard's hometown  

Friday, 15 February 2008

A short drive from Stow is the world-famous Stratford upon Avon, birth and final resting place of William Shakespere. It is an undeniably pretty town, with some lovely views over the canal and the river. Nevertheless, while undoubtedly steeped in history and a cultural centre of immense importance, I found it a bit like any other market town in Britain.

And that sense of sameness is something that has really struck me over the last three days. It appears that every high street in the country now has virtually the same mixture of shops. Any regional variation seems to have been driven out by the big corporates, and any sparks of diversity submerged in an ocean of Starbucks, WH Smiths, Clinton Cards and all the rest. In a town like Stratford, famous the world over for the creative contribution it has made to civilisation, this tide of blandness seems strangely out of place.

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