There’s something very reassuring about shops. Wandering down a street with nothing but faceless commercial buildings or rows of houses and flats, there’s always a sense of relief when you get to a road with shops.
You’ve at last arrived at a street where you, a potential customer, have a place; where people interact. Even if you don’t want to buy food or a newspaper, it’s nice to know it’s there, in a shop.
Most people would not normally put it like this, but retail activity in general brings warmth to an area; it says a street is open for business, alive and well. The shops may be private, but the space is public.
And not surprisingly, it is the retailers and other local services that are often at the centre of economic regeneration.
In London, we should particularly appreciate the importance of local shops and offices away from the large centres; away from the west end “shopping destinations” or the major supermarkets.
London obviously needs and thrives on that internationally competitive retailing. But the attractions of London as a global city are always underpinned by its sociability and vibrancy at the neighbourhood level.
And it is local shops and offices, diverse and characterful as they are, which provide the heart to the many villages that make up this grand city.
BBC News and Presenter, Dragon’s Den