M&S and Halifax score top in fantasy high street

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The Independent Online
Britain's perfect high street would have none of the top four banks, no Tesco, Sainsbury or Safeway and no Dixons or Currys, according to a survey of shoppers.

Neither would there be a Threshers, Abbey National, C&A or Miss Selfridge if consumers could choose their own "fantasy shopping centre".

But there would be a Marks & Spencer, Halifax, William Hill bookies and upmarket shops such as Waterstone's for books, Body Shop for cosmetics and Thorntons for confectionery.

Shoppers were asked to pick their favourite stores in different categories to make the dream shopping centre for a report compiled by the analysts Total Research.

The favourite foodstore was not Tesco or the other big supermarkets but Marks & Spencer, which was also among the best selected stores for clothes. And the bank that people would most like to have in their high street was not Barclays, NatWest or Midland but the Royal Bank of Scotland.

But while shoppers went for what might be regarded as the more upmarket chains in these categories, they also wanted the more down-to-earth names in others.

For instance, they chose Clarks for shoes above its more expensive rivals and the catalogue shop Argos over Dixons, Currys, or Comet for household and electrical goods.

The Halifax beat off all its rivals in the building society stakes and Pizza Hut won the fast-food list from McDonald's and Burger King.

Other favourites included Victoria for off-licence wines and spirits, Boots to cure the resulting hangover, Thomas Cook among travel companies and Next, Principles and Jaeger for clothes.

Mike Hamm, of Total Research, said: "There are a lot of surprises in the choices made by consumers.

"Shoppers did not always choose the names they used the most but those that, perhaps, they wanted to use the most but could not find locally.

"The bank choice was unusual. The Royal Bank of Scotland is not the most widely used bank but customers of the other brands must have chosen Royal Bank of Scotland as their ideal.

"The same applies to some shops. So if that is the case why do they not change banks or stores? The fact is many people are happy with where they shop or bank but perceive other brands as having a better image."

Mr Hamm admitted that the ideal high street portrayed by the survey tended to look more like Woking than West Ham, but that its findings could act as a pointer for retailers in other ways.

He said: "The Halifax, for instance, may find it does better if it sites branches next to [the newsagents] WH Smith rather than Martins.

"By analysing these results shops could find other retailers who appeal to the same audiences."

The report was based on interviews conducted with more than 1,000 shoppers around the United Kingdom.