Archives for posts with tag: Brixton Village

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Many years ago when I was working at M&S in Lewisham, I would also relief manage the shop in Brixton. It was at the time of the riots and as someone who dipped in and out there, a lesson in dealing with shoplifters and community issues.

Rolling forward some twenty five or so years later I went back to meet friends and discover the burgeoning food scene in this neck of the woods. As I came out of the tube, M&S was opposite me with a new fascia but the same foundations underneath the railway arch. And the same can be said for Brixton itself which has now become gentrified to within an inch of its former life.

Brixton Village has long been a place of great food. Home of the first Franco Manca, the first Chicken Liquor and the first Honest Burger. It has a huge variety of cuisines reflecting the cultural diversity of this city of London. Brixton has long been part of the history of our great city from way back when and the markets here were central to that story. In 2009 the local traders and residents fought hard to stop the development plans that would have destroyed those markets and they were awarded with Grade II status that have protected them and supported them into becoming what they are today.

Mostly it is a story of the inherent community pulling together to protect their independence and build a Microtown that rewards not only themselves, but also everyone in London.

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We started our Sunday tour with gin & tonics in Brixton Village made by a Spaniard who was doing much the same as we had in San Sebastian at the Gintoneria. We progressed from their to Pop Brixton which sits behind the Village as the newest addition to the area having opened in May 2015.

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This community space houses Asian, Ghanian, Indian, Chinese, Italian, Japanese, Spanish and much more set in a relaxed conglomerate of shipping containers cleverly decorated and arranged to create a fun space to enjoy. There are raised beds of herbs and plants, music stages, craft beers and many artistic stands that come together with a space on top to chill out.

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After that we went back through the original market admiring the local produce and amazing fish stalls who would put stands at Barcelona’s La Boqueria to shame. Then one final spin around the enclosed units that house such diversity of food: cheeses, meats, BBQ, Champagne, cakes, crepes, seafood and much more, before grabbing a final gelato back in the Village itself.

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All in all this is a great place to go, to chill and to admire what can be done with the support of all the wonderful young, passionate, driven people that want to do it. Go. Support. Enjoy.

I was pondering this week about the concept of trust.

The first news story to get me thinking was published last Wednesday. It was reported that Australian retailer, Woolworths, were launching their ‘fresh or free’ campaign in an attempt to get one up on their arch rival Coles. The promotion allows customers to bring back any product that they deem unfresh and the retailer will offer a no questions asked refund. Whilst they were clear that this new idea was open to abuse, they said that they “trust the customer to do the right thing”. Wow!

The following day I was listening to a segment on the Today programme about peer to peer lending. Executive Director for financial stability at the Bank of England, Andy Haldane, made a speech in New York predicting that traditional high street banks will be replaced by peer to peer lenders in the future. In response, the co-founder of Zopa, Giles Andrews, talked about his business model. Zopa is an online lending service which is like a dating site for money lending. They match people who have spare money to invest with people who want to borrow money and let the magic happen. But it was when Mr Andrews was undergoing the usual aggressive, cynical line of ‘Today’ questioning that he admitted it all came down to one thing in the end…trust.

Last year, I was trying to figure out how I could afford to stay away on my trip to New Zealand without incurring huge costs for accommodation and as a last resort I investigated home swapping. It occurred to me that even if money is tight, I have a great asset at my disposal in my London flat and why not barter that. Home swapping is an ever growing market and ever since the film Holiday, has received a lot of press attention as money is tight and we are all looking for alternative options. Needless to say, Jude Law thrown in would be a bonus, or indeed Jack Black, if he floats your boat, but for me it simply opened up a whole new world of holidays. A week in Stockholm and 2 weeks in New York for an accommodation cost of £99 can hardly be scoffed at.

Home from home - my NYC flat for 2 weeks

Most of my friends and family thought this was all good and well but fundamentally would never go there as the whole concept required a significant amount of trust. After all, you are opening up your home, your haven, to a complete stranger. My theory is that they are doing the same to me, but I admit this requires a big leap of faith.

It is this connection and level of trust that is essential to the success of a retailer. Just as I am prepared to open up my home to others, so a retailer opens up their doors and then it is up to the other party to come on in. There have been a lot of pontification about the role of trust in retail brands over the years and in my old job at M&S, they were always very keen to be top of the YouGov survey on trust. I think it is equally important to new, small brands just as much as those more established large scale ones because it is a fundamental reason for customers to come back for more. In food, we trust that we are not going to be poisoned or even worse, killed by an untrustworthy dish and since this is a distinct possibility with an unscrupulous provider, then trust really is central to our industry. With the current fashion for small artisan hand made products as well as replicating authentic street food, this concept is more inherent than ever.

Try Brixton Village for some really great street food

So as a retailer how do you instil trust in your customers? Well for me, there are three simple principles:

Approachability. I really think the first way in is to be approachable so that the consumer can connect in some way with the brand. There are no set rules to that approach. It could be through design, or humour, or warmth, or fame and so many other routes. Whichever way you choose, it is critical to find a link with your target customer base.

Honesty. Whatever it is you do or stand for, be honest about it. Any exaggerated claims or over promised services will be caught out in the end, so believe in what you stand for and stand for what you believe in.

Credibility. Find a way of telling your customers about the lengths you go to delivering your brand experience. It doesn’t need to be heavy and lengthy. Sometimes a picture tells a thousand words and other times social media lets you have a loads of fun with it. But most of all you need to communicate.

With all that in mind, I am off to search for a lovely place to holiday this Summer. At the moment, I have wonderful homes shortlisted in Greece, Thailand, Costa Rica and Anguilla. I am just waiting to hear who fancies London. Let’s see who trusts me.