About a month ago we launched a new project called Mr Blog, designed to document all the 'Mr' shops on our high streets. Since then, in the guise of Mr Blog and his put-upon colleague Mr Tweets, we've recorded about 30 characters, including Mr News, Mr Egg, Mr Cobbler and Mr Maggot Man.
It's partly a fun exercise, celebrating a form of branding that we've always enjoyed. But there's also a semi-serious point behind it – about the importance of valuing these homespun characters at a time when they're being crowded out by national chains and global brands.
This week, the New Economics Foundation published a report on the UK's trend towards 'clone towns', which bears out this point. The report classes 41% of Britain's towns as 'clones', where more than half of the stores are chains. A further 23% are on the verge of joining them. Cambridge is singled out as the worst offender, with high rents forcing independent retailers out of the town centre (a charge denied by various authorities in Cambridge).
At the other end of the scale, Whitstable is singled out for praise, with a strong mix of independent stores.
There's an inexact parrallel between all of this and the 'Mr' branding device. After all, some 'Mr' shops are chains themselves (step forward Mr Bagels). Nevertheless, it turns out we have two Whitstable 'Mr's on our files, including todays' Mr Snips. (The triple-barrelled Mr Chips Fish Bar is also waiting in the wings.) Meanwhile we've yet to track down a single Mr in the much larger town of Cambridge.
Further down the line, we might publish an official Mr Survey and see how the results track against the the NEF report.
Picture taken from MENmedia