Ah, the life of a jet-setting journo… I wish. I’m cream-crackered at the moment having returned from holiday in Miami just in time for press day and to pack my suitcase again for retail extravaganza Mapic in Cannes.
On the upside, all this toing and froing got me pondering the striking differences - and surprising similarities - between these two locations and Margate, where one or two of you may be aware I live.
Has she lost her marbles, I hear you ask, and on the face of it they don’t appear to have anything in common. But that’s where you’d be wrong. During my trip, I visited Miami’s Wynwood neighbourhood. In the late 1990s, this wouldn’t have been possible - certainly not after dark - as it was riddled with crime and drug dealers.
Today, however, the former working-class Puerto Rican neighbourhood is a hipster hangout, its fortunes transformed by the likes of Lombardi Properties founder David Lombardi, who started snapping up land there in the early 2000s. During my visit the streets were teeming with locals and tourists (including celeb spot Naomie ‘Miss Moneypenny’ Harris) who flock there to see the work of famous graffiti artists emblazoned across Wynwood Walls and peruse the numerous galleries, coffee shops and eateries.
The creative community, initially drawn to the area by the empty workspace and low rents, have helped to kick-start the reinvention and gentrification of Wynwood in the same way they have in Dumbo, Brooklyn, London’s East End and - to a lesser extent - in Margate, which has also been dubbed a hipster hangout (somewhat implausibly as far as locals are concerned). But the reality is that while the north Kent town now boasts more than its fair share of galleries and eateries and is proving increasingly attractive to DFLs (‘down from Londons’), it will probably never reach the heady heights of the Hackneys of this world because it isn’t in the capital. And it will never boast the retail offer that elevates a location to the world stage, unlike Wynwood, which is located within spitting distance of the super chichi Miami Design District, or Cannes, which boasts many of the same luxury retailers in the Design District.
What Margate can aspire to if it continues on its upward trajectory is a place on the UK retail map, especially if the high street attracts more mass-market and premium retailers. As our Hot 100 list of UK retail locations reveals, there are plenty of seemingly unlikely inclusions. Indeed, the town topping the list of locations with the greatest mass-market retail appeal is… Milton Keynes.
The exclusive ranking, compiled by CACI, spotlights locations offering the greatest potential, emphasis on the word potential, so towns that have up and come may not feature as highly as they expected or at all. Why have we done this? Because potential equals opportunity, which is what developers and retailers are interested in - and why I expect to see you poring over the rankings at Mapic along with our fantastic Retail, Leisure & Hotels supplement.
Happy reading and see you there!