So the Camden New Journal reports today that Space NK is set to open in Primrose Hill next Saturday, despite a growing 1200-strong petition in the neighbourhood to ban chain shops.

Being P-Hill, big name celebs have waded in too, with pleas from Mary Portas, Gary Kemp, Sam Taylor-Johnson, and Sadie Frost to keep the area chain-free (and support the independent beauty salon Lost In Beauty rather than Space NK). But we’re genuinely confused: isn’t there already a branch of Nicholas, who have over 20 wine shops in the capital? And CP Hart Bathrooms, with – at the last count – 10? Furthermore John D Wood estate agents have 14 offices in London alone.

The subject of what is or isn’t a chain, and whether we want or don’t want them, is one that evokes a justifiably heated response. A few months back reader Denis Peper spoke right here of his ideal of a ‘chain-free’ Kentish Town: ‘How many other branches should we allow a company to have elsewhere? None? Two? Five? This is an important decision that would affect the final outcome. None would ensure originality, but would also prevent creative businesses such as Pizza East setting up shop, whereas a low but greater-than-zero number would not. Should we make an exception for banks? What about estate agents?’

Peper’s article drew a huge response from both sides of the argument. But even then it was difficult for people to set the parameters on what is a chain and what isn’t.

So, we wondered, what do Kentishtowners think of the petition against Space NK in Primrose Hill? What is the difference between Nicholas and Space NK? And would you object to them opening a branch on Kentish Town Road?

Oh, and whilst we’re at it, what about Costa Coffee opening in Tufnell Park?

Over to you.

32 Responses

  1. Trace

    It’s not ideal that Costa are setting up shop in Tufnell Park but I don’t know anywhere else in TP that does decent coffee. (Rustique is a nice cafe but the coffee leaves a lot to be desired!)

    As for Space NK, it’s hardly a huge chain and only the Primrose Hill set can afford to shop there anyway!

    Reply
    • Phil Cowan

      Space Nk actually has 63 shops to date and are planning many more. They are owned by a Private Equity fund in the U.S.A. Manzanita Capital. Only the shareholders will benefit from this, not the local economy. The petition is actually over 4000 names both online and hard copy.

      Reply
      • Gillian

        Sorry Phil,
        From what I hear the majority of shopkeepers and residents are very much in support of Space NK joining Regent’s Pk Rd. It is a welcome addition and will add some much needed sparkle to the village.

  2. Tim

    How many people (not just in Primrose Hill) who moan about the loss of ‘independent’ shops actually shop there? If you don’t want chain shops in your area, one of the easiest and most effective ways to protest is with your wallet. And better than signing a petition to save a shop when its too late, if you value it, actually use it

    Reply
  3. Nead

    Im all for Costa in Tufnell Park…..even Archway has one!!!! Is this fact re Tufnell Park? I hope so!
    its about time the area had a shake up, too many shops open and close around there. Perhaps a few well established chains would just add to the area and not take away from it or be to the detriment of the small independent operators. I think such chains would do nothing but good for Tufnell Park. It is definitely improving but it has so much more potential. The addition of Aces and Eights is great, and its basement Cotton and Hobbs, so I hope they stick around.
    re PH, it is quite a special little quirky village but there is really nothing they can do about Space NK. I do see their point as there are not really many cute little village type places around in London anymore. However, just because it has celebrity status, they cant expect to dictate what business does or does not move in. Lost in Beauty will good have to be happy about the healthy competition. Personally I dont like Space NK and have been to Lost in Beauty and it is a very well run friendly and personal place, so I’d say they have nothing to fear!

    Reply
  4. Brian

    Some years ago, if my memory doesn’t deceive me, there was a similar campaign in Regents Park Road to stop Starbucks. It was successful and it became an estate agent. In an ideal world, there would be a planning regime that could create a balance. Then, for example, you could have one Tesco or similar in Regents Park Road and those who live locally and haven’t a car to drive to Sainsbury’s would be able to buy cheaper food and not suffer from living in an area of (not sure what to call them/us but you know what I mean).

    Reply
  5. CarolS

    I was part of the stop Starbucks coming to Primrose Hill campaign. We were successful due to most local people wanting to retain the individual character of local businesses, hence the character of the ‘village’. The departing travel agent (another individual business suffering the dire effects of 9/11 and forced to leave) hadn’t realised a chain coffee place would be so unwelcome until our campaign. It has now been replaced by an individual trader NOT an estate agent. Most local people are sad to have lost Welch’s the so useful ironmongers/hardware shop run for aeons by the Beechey’s. June Beechey’s knowledge and advice was of the old fashioned totally reliable kind and she was/is held in such affection that she became a Banksy style icon displaying the slogan Make Tea Not War (invented by a local Chalk farm Road business too) on a nearby wall. We’ve also lost Sesame, one time a unique health food shop, whose trading was been challenged by the availability of health foods in supermarkets and other nearby chains, and rising business rent. We don’t need any more expensive exclusive shops but individuals offering both a service and neighbourlinesss as both they did. Trojka is a huge loss, rising rents again. I’m as fond of Kentish Town’s individual places as anyone but to have needed shops on one’s doorstep is the best.

    Reply
    • Phil Cowan

      Thankyou for your correction that the proposed Starbucks outlet was replaced not by an Estate Agent, but an independent retailer of furniture and lighting. I still trade at the premises in question ten years later. Independent shops such as mine will generally try to weather the good and the bad times because we are committed to the community we operate within. Multiple outlet companies take a different approach. If the going gets tough-the tough get going.The shareholders will then take the gains from the High Street they will probably never set foot in. I hope very much that a debate has arisen from this to give people some influence over the area in which they live.

      Reply
    • Gillian

      Rents rise same a residential property values. Would you like your house to be worth what it was 10 years ago instead of what it is to day?!

      Reply
  6. Robert

    Re Costa in Tufnel Pk: I would rather have an independent shop every time, but that’s not the choice on offer. The landlord has supported the opening of two new independent shops in Fortess Rd in the last year, and is mid way through what seems to be an extensive programme of refurbishment works on existing premises. A high street like Fortess Rd need a balance, Tufnel Pk is not Primrose Hill.

    Reply
  7. Brian

    My memory clearly did deceive me, sorry. I thought it was the shop front at the end. It is easy to see the problems rather than the solution when it comes to objecting to particular shops moving in (Starbucks, chain stores etc). If you could have a planning regime that produced an ideal mix, it would be attacked as social engineering, nanny state etc, and probably be unworkable and divisive. On the other hand, if you don’t, you can get nothing but Starbucks etc (or estate agents..)

    A slight diversion if I may. The space to watch is the Steele’s. Losing it would be a disaster but as someone in the trade told me, they may not have wanted to lose their license but if they did, they were going about it the right way.

    Brian

    Reply
  8. francesca

    Thank you! I started to read this article with a sense of impending doom, for weeks everything I have read has told me that the residents of Primrose Hill are violently opposed to Space NK coming. This surprises me because I know many residents myself included, who are very happy they are coming. We think they will improve the HIgh Street and will bring much needed foot traffic to Primrose HIll. I think it is unfortunate that the people involved in the stop the chains coming petition did not act when the council closed Chalk Farm Library I can only suppose that the literacy of an area is not considered as important as where we buy face cream. The Primrose HIll Community Library(formerly Chalk Farm Library) stands on a prime location, I somehow doubt if the council will care what we think when they decide to redevelop.

    Reply
    • Phil Cowan

      If you think the residents of Primrose Hill are ” very happy that they (Space Nk) are coming” then please could you provide figures to prove this rather than a series of comments that consist of only of your and your associates opinions. We have asked people a question and noted their response. Over 5000 people do not want this outlet to open in Primrose Hill. If you think they are wrong please start your own petition and let democracy win the argument.

      Reply
  9. francesca

    If I had been told that Subway and Starbucks were coming to the village I also would have signed the petition. People WERE told that Subway/Starbucks were coming to Primrose HIll. We already have cafes and restaurants and we don’t need more. It is not the same as Space NK coming.

    Reply
    • Gillian

      During the past week i have had countless clients and residents coming in to complain about how aggressive the people with the petition were at our (Family day out) Christmas Fair last Sunday. Subway and Starbucks do not have designs on Primrose Hill and to use their names to get more signatures is just plain WRONG!

      Reply
  10. P Arthur

    Oh dear somebody seems to think he is the self appointed mayor of primrose hill…. You and your ‘petition numbers’ need to take a step back and a deep breath. If your business is a good one it will survive regardless os a space nk opening. If you can’t afford the rent in your chosen area… Well I’d love a shop in Kensington but I know my limitations and my market.
    Open your eyes and ears Nd realise many residents and shopkeepers (who have been around for longer than 10 years) are happy with change and development. Do you have a hidden agenda or a personal ulterior motive because I think some people do protest too loudly.

    Reply
  11. Karen Ross

    Mr Cowan talks of ‘democratic rights’. It is Space.NK’s democratic right to open a shop in Primrose Hill (or anywhere else, come to that matter). Why on earth would residents want or need to campaign in favour of them? We shall be supporting them where it really matters: with our money.

    Last time I looked, Regent’s Park Road was not being run as a Communist co-operative; shops come and go according to market forces. Perhaps that is why Mr Cowan’s tenant, the owner of Lost In Beauty, unsuccessfully offered her own sub-lease to Space.NK, which is surely a shining example of an entrepreneurial business made good.

    I too was pestered last week, on four separate occasions, to sign a petition to ‘Stop Starbucks, Subway and Space-NK’. Does Phil Cowan have something against retailers beginning with the letter S?

    If what I read in the Standard is correct, Mr Cowan is also attempting to persuade people to boycott Lemonia. If this is true, he should be ashamed of himself.

    A huge empty space in Primrose Hill with a restaurant license? Hello Domino’s Pizza!

    Be careful of what you wish for…

    Reply
  12. Gillian

    Ditto! Hear, Hear! THE voice of reason and intelligence to see there is more to this petition!

    Reply
  13. Patricia Wilson

    Mr Cowan you’re not looking to good in all this. Urging people to boy cott a local independent business??!
    Let’s hope you are covering yourself legally or you could find yourself in a spot of bother.
    I too was told that the petition related to subways, surely this petition is a joke now that it appears people were being lied to and misled

    Reply
  14. Dudisimo

    I noticed with interest that, according to the Camden New Journal, it’s really financial interests that are behind the Primrose Hill petition rather than any particular desire to promote independent shops. Just to keep the rents down, in fact.

    Before calling for ‘chain free’ zones, which are not going to happen in any case, people should consider what happened in Kentish Town when Sainsbury’s and Marks and Spencer left KT many years ago, apparently with the council’s blessing. Within a few years we’d lost a butcher’s, a fishmonger and two greengrocer’s as shoppers moved their allegiance to Camden Town.

    It’s taken many years for the area to regenerate and to get some quality, independent shops that appear to be able to compete with the chains that have also set up in recent years.

    Reply
    • The Duke

      The greater concern to residents should be the potential closure of Belsize Park Fire Station. If this closes it means job losses and significantly longer response times to PH, given its relative isolation due to road access.

      Regardless of the outcome I will still refer to the area as Chalk Farm and continue to moan that the old filling station now sells wine.

      Reply
  15. alistair

    Well said the Duke – I remember when Chalk Farm was all bed sits and pubs with laconite

    But time marches on

    You must admit Space NK is a step up from Brut, Mandate and Hi Karate

    Reply
  16. AP

    Is it true that the people that started the no chains in primrose hill actually were trying to get space nk to take their premises?!?! Oh what a tangled web we weave… Think the good peolpe of PH have been used in a nasty way.

    Reply
  17. Bemused Local

    This campaign is not strictly accurate. There are no plans for the arrival of Starbucks, Subway etc despite campaigners telling people there are and, yes, there are a few chains operating already in Primrose Hill which did not spark the same level of outrage or indeed open the feared ‘floodgates’.

    So this is about unwanted competition for Lost in Beauty. I understand Mr Cowan owns the lease to the premises out of which Lost in Beauty operates. So I have sympathy that he understandably fears competition.

    However, regarding competition: there are several hairdressers operating around Primrose Hill – 2 on the same side of the street within minutes of walking distance of each other and there was no consternation when the newest ‘competitor’ came along. There are also other traders offering beauty services and they haven’t been up in arms at the imminent arrival of Space NK.

    Lost in Beauty is a unique destination retailer which will no doubt retain its loyal clientele. It offers a wide variety of bespoke treatments and an eclectic mix of products not found in your average chain. There will always be customers who want that.

    Space NK may be a chain but it is not the devil incarnate. Adept at holding local in-shop events and partaking in the community surrounding it ( if its other branches are anything to go by ) it will attract new customers to a very noticeably recession hit high street. Those customers will stay to browse the street and other traders will benefit.

    Marylebone High Street and St John’s Wood already successfully operate a mix of independent shops and chains that fit in with their ‘local aesthetic’ – so I really don’t see the problem with Space NK and Primrose Hill. SpaceNK would be a good fit for Primrose Hill which will only benefit from the injection of new customers. And given the quietness of the Primrose Hill High Street currently, it sure needs it.

    Reply
  18. Duncan

    There are already a number of chains in Primrose Hill….. the pubs. Hardly one is independent. And isn’t there a Nicolas up there? Hundreds of those in the world.

    Reply
  19. Olivia

    Isn’t Space NK mainly if not purely retail? Lost in Beaty is largely a treatment orientated business? I also understand Space NK have agreed not to stock ANY brands which Lost In Beauty carry ? So no competition there then – if Lost In Beauty offer a compellIng and professional service, as I’m sure they do, surely this is a win win situation –

    Reply
  20. Karen Ross

    So Space.NK is now up and running in Regent’s Park Road, and as someone said on Twitter, it looks as if it has been there for years. A sympathetic refurbishment, retaining some of the lovely glazed green tiles from the former hardware shop.

    Mr Cowan led a band of seven – or was it six – protestors who shuffled past with a placard, pausing only to pose for the press before disbanding. Meanwhile, dozens of happy locals were inside, chatting with the lovely, knowledgable staff, while a talented group of carol singers did the Christmas thing, and passers-by gladly accepted hot drinks and mince pies.

    And that’s that. Life goes on in Primrose Hill. I wonder who will take over Sesame? Hope Monty’s Picture shop doesn’t stay empty for too long. And continue to make my Christmas wish for a Waitrose Local…

    Reply
    • theorgangrinder

      Once again, Ms Ross overplays her rather tawdry hand by continuing to drip vitriol on what is an important point of principle, Methinks the “lady” doth protest too much…..

      Reply
      • Phil Cowan

        Protest, and protesting too much should both be allowed in our society. They arise from the prevention of a question being asked. Whether it’s 6 or 6000 is irrelevant. The campaign to stop Space NK opening an outlet in Primrose Hill has been defeated but it brought to light the passion with which people here view their community. The voices of the people who took part in the debate should all be valued and noted. A forum for ideas and opinions about this area is desperately overdue and in conjunction with residents, businesses, community entities and landlords I hope, in the New Year to encourage discussion about the future of Primrose Hill.

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