Clone Towns - Bad (Or Good) For House Prices?

Do house prices in areas branded as ‘clone towns’ suffer as a result?

I ask because it seems smaller towns and even villages are undergoing the same process of retail cloning as larger towns and cities.

Over Easter I paid a family visit to Wombourne, a village in the Midlands, to see that of about 20 shops around the picturesque cricket green, five were ‘cloned’ (that is, part of a national or global chain, and not one off local independent shops). Three of the five were Co-Ops (a brand almost as ubiquitous as the much-derided Tesco in much of the UK).

In the south west, small towns like Honiton and Totnes - both once havens of independent shops - are beginning to see what many consider the inevitable arrival of brands like Costa Coffee, W H Smith, Fat Face and the other familiar chains seen across the country. It is likely that the same trend is occuring in damn near every small town and village, too.

The New Economics Foundation, a think-tank which may just have more successful PR than its research ever really justifies, gets a lot of publicity every few years by issuing a league table of clone towns - usually larger cities, in fact. The most recent survey showed:

- 41 per cent of UK towns are ‘cloned’ with over half the stores in the main street branded for national or global chains;

- Cambridge was the most cloned town (in the past Exeter was the most cloned);

- Richmond has the most cloned high street of London’s “villages”;

- Whitstable, Kent was the least cloned in the 117 locations it surveyed.

Popular middle-class perception may have it that charming streets filled with independent shops may denote an affluent area but given the relative house prices and buoyancy in the market of ‘cloned’ areas like Cambridge, Exeter and Richmond, compared to the most ‘un-cloned’ of Whitstable, it may well be that the arrival of a Caffe Nero and a Zara might do more good to the wallets of home owners than we might be led to believe.

Does it actually make a difference? As most brands only open stores after (usually) scrupulous research, are they simply fulfilling a demand and so may be indicative of an area’s rising popularity - not its decline?

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