Charlotte Street Partners



All change please

Written by Katie Stanton, associate partner
Edited by Harriet Moll, creative director
30 November 2020

Good morning,

The times they are a’changin, and nowhere more than on Britain’s high streets. A quick trot into the city centre closest to you will probably be a bit shocking; London is all shutters, boards, To Let signs and hipster takeaway coffee tuk tuks flogging Columbian brew beside the sagging corpse of the latest department store fatality.
It’s hard to take it in: thousands of jobs lost, countless lives effected, huge swathes of the urban landscape now carved out, redundant.
This is particularly relevant today, of course, because Sir Philip Green’s Arcadia Group is set to enter administration at any moment. The company’s brands include Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins; names which once dominated high street fashion but have been superseded by online retailers such as Boohoo and Asos.
The group had been seeking a buyer in the form of JD Sports or Sports Direct billionaire Mike Ashley, but senior sources at the company revealed yesterday that they do not expect a last-minute rescue deal. This puts 13,000 jobs at risk, not to mention the suppliers, and the chain now faces being broken up.
In the short-term, this is terrible news for the UK economy and for those impacted by the uncertainty of it all. But it is not the end. While it may be hard to see now, the accelerated demise of the high street as we know it is, in fact, an opportunity to rethink how we live and spend our days.
I’m talking from personal experience here, but this year’s exodus from our cities has had its benefits for those smaller high streets out in the suburbs; the ones which would otherwise be deserted at 2pm on a Wednesday. Now people are around, it seems they are making a concerted effort to shop local, to support independent businesses, to care about what they consume, and where stuff comes from, to get outside and spend their valuable time with the people they love, close to home.
Yes, it is getting a little bit monotonous and a holiday would be nice. But all in all, it’s really lovely to see our little local villages and towns humming with activity, and to not be stuck on some nondescript ring road for two hours on a rainy Sunday evening trying to battle the six miles home from Christmas shopping in town.
In fact, perhaps we are being forced – rather more quickly than is comfortable – into a dream scenario: the 15-minute city. Essentially, the premise is a rather self-explanatory one. The 15-minute city prioritises inhabitants’ time over all else, organising itself to improve both living conditions and the environment. In this model, all of your daily necessities are just 15 minutes away on foot or by bike – work, home, shops, entertainment, education, the lot. It’s a utopia of course, but perhaps embracing nearness in this crucial moment can edge us closer to realising it.
“But what of all that prime, city centre real estate?” I hear you call. Well, for now that’s up for grabs. If we can bring ourselves to start thinking differently about spaces, commercial units could realistically become affordable homes, offices, even marketing space. Could corporates have showrooms on our high streets to echo all that messaging about transparency, to really lay bare their operations and improve customer interface? Could city centres be returned to small, village-y hubs? Might we see small independent retailers reclaiming the opulent store fronts of Regent Street? Could cheap, city centre property solve our housing crisis?
Who knows? But it’s time to think creatively about how to make cities that work for its inhabitants. All change please!


A seven-year plan to phase out paying subsidies to farmers based on how much land they own has been announced as part of a post-Brexit overhaul of agriculture in England. The government confirmed yesterday that farmers will receive money for improving productivity and the environment. As such, it expects to see more trees, meadows and wetlands, and fewer sheep and cows in the most fundamental shift in farming policy for half a century. (£)
Coronavirus infections in England have fallen by about a third over lockdown, according to a major study by Imperial College London. Some of the worst-hit areas saw the biggest improvements – but, despite progress, health secretary Matt Hancock said we cannot “take our foot off the pedal just yet” and urged continued vigilance.
Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, a leading Iranian nuclear scientist, was assassinated in his car with gunfire from remote-controlled automatic weapons in an operation that took less than three minutes, reports from Tehran suggest. Israeli intelligence services and the UN believed Fakhrizadeh to be instrumental in Iran’s atomic programme. His assassination is set to escalate already fraught tensions between Iran and the US.

Business and economy

The CBI, Britain’s leading business lobby group, “must change” as the country leaves the European Union and grapples with the economic cost of coronavirus, according to Tony Danker, its new director-general. Danker is calling for an overhaul of its relationship with Downing Street after the turbulence of the Brexit referendum. (£)
Five of the UK’s biggest energy companies are lobbying Boris Johnson to “match” US president-elect Joe Biden’s clean energy ambitions and set a deadline for net zero. BP, Royal Dutch Shell, National Grid, SSE and Drax want the government to set the target ahead of the UN COP26 climate summit in Glasgow next year. (£)
City crisis experts are working with easyJet as it attempts to refinance more than £1.4bn of debt owed to taxpayers and lenders. The budget airline has called in AlixPartners to help with cashflow forecasting amid crisis talks with Whitehall officials and banks. (£)

Columns of note

Pilita Clark has it in for bad meetings in the Financial Times. Covid-19 and remote working have ushered in the age of the perpetual meeting and, crucially, given a platform to the Meeting Monster; you know, the people who suck up time and energy with off-topic grandstanding, rambling and distracted mouth-running. Well, no more! Good meeting leaders can and should stop the carnage. And that’s a skill which must be taught. (£)
Writing in the New Yorker, Charles Duhigg explains how even the worst-run of start-ups can beat competitors if they are propped up by investors. He uses WeWork as an exemplar. Backed by venture capitalists, the company was able to make one wild mistake after another, “hoping that its gamble would pay off before disaster struck.” (£)

Cartoon source: The Telegraph


The week ahead

Brexit talks continue this week as the still divided EU and British negotiating teams strive to ratify an agreement in time for 1 January. Conversations have thus far been bogged down in fishing rights and “securing a level playing field” for business.
Meanwhile, Opec members will sit down with Russia today for a two-day meeting, amidst what has been a month-long oil rally. It is expected that Opec will maintain its supply curbs at current levels for a few months longer due to lingering uncertainty about the strength of demand, although the decision is by no means certain after public complaints from Iraq and Nigeria, and private discord with the UAE.
Boris Johnson faces a tough day on Tuesday, as the House of Commons votes on Covid restrictions. A rebellion of as many as 70 Tory MPs is requesting more evidence regarding the efficacy of the system and may vote against the government. England is set to return to tiered restrictions when lockdown ends on Wednesday.
The OECD will present its global economic outlook on Tuesday, with updates on the impact of coronavirus on the economy and projections on output, employment, prices, fiscal and current account balances.
US nonfarm payroll figures will be the big data point of the week on Friday, while inflation figures for the eurozone are due on Tuesday.
And finally, Salesforce and Zoom report this week – but will earnings continue to reflect a shift toward homeworking?

What’s happening today?

Zambeed Prod.

Civitas Social Housing
Discoverie Grp.
Draper Esp
Omega Dia
St James House

Advance Energy
Europa Metals
Macau Property
Opg Power
Pensana Rare
Vast Res

Int. Economic announcements
(07:00) Import Price Index (GER)
(14:45) Chicago PMI
(15:00) Pending Homes Sales (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

In 2013, Yahoo bought Tumblr for $1.1bn in cash. Six years later they sold it for $3m, less than 0.4% of what it was bought for.

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

Oral questions
Work and pensions
Telecommunications (Security) Bill: Second reading
Statutory paid bereavement leave for the loss of a family member – Patricia Gibson

House of Lords 

Oral questions
Supporting private investment in the hydrogen sector in the UK – Baroness Meacher
Jobs saved in Northern Ireland as a result of measures to deal with the economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic – Lord Caine
Using the World Trade Organization’s Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights to guarantee access to affordable drugs – Lord Alton of Liverpool
Case for convening a summit of the governments of the 10 leading democracies in spring 2021 – Baroness D’Souza
High Speed Rail (West Midlands-Crewe) Bill – report stage – Baroness Vere of Norbiton
Covid-19 update – Lord Bethell

Scottish Parliament 

No business scheduled.

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