As Brockley Central’s drily noted, Monday saw the withdrawal of the Evening Standard from south-east London. It stopped covering us properly long ago, now we can’t even pick up a copy of the paper now it’s gone free, with distribution seemingly being restricted to central London, with a few exceptions.
Want to pick up an Evening Standard in Charlton? Last Friday, I had 10 retailers within 10 minutes of my house. Now l have to trek to a retail park, swerve around the cars, and visit Asda or the grim WH Smith barn. Actually, SE7 is relatively well-stocked with Standards – Greenwich’s only distributor is the retail park Sainsbury’s, just over the boundary. As for the rest of the locality – it’s pretty much a Standard-free zone:
That’ll be Tesco and Sainsbury’s in Lewisham, and Sainsbury’s at Lee Green. Want to pick up a Standard in Blackheath? Tough. I had a wander to Blackheath Standard on Monday lunchtime, and there was not a copy to be seen – clearly the M&S there isn’t a big enough shop to warrant having it, the newsagent next door had a gap on its shelf where the paper should be. For the first time in decades, there were no Standards at the Standard. While I’m no fan of the paper, it was strange to see it completely vanish.
For the paper which once loudly declared “save our small shops“, it’s shaming to see it retreat to the retail parks. The Standard could be part of the capital’s local shopping scene, a reason for people to venture to their local shopping parades and perhaps pick up something on the way. Instead, not only has it abandoned its street vendors, it’s abandoned the local shops that are at the heart of London’s hundreds of local communities.
There are millions of Londoners, particularly older people, who don’t commute into central London. Around me on Monday lunchtime in Blackheath were plenty of shoppers who’d have probably picked up a decent-sized afternoon newspaper. If the Standard does not develop its distribution network, it’s likely that a huge proportion of Londoners will never even set eyes on the paper that claims to serve their city – and that comes 18 months after its once-ubiquitous billboards helped Boris Johnson win the mayoral election.
The Standard’s decision to abandon London’s neighbourhoods cannot make commercial sense – it continually writes news stories about the poor hard done-by car driver, but where will most London car drivers even see a billboard, never mind pick up a paper? It seems to be chasing after a mysterious young-ish, female reader whose life and aspirations revolve around the west side of central London. But what about everybody else? It’s clearly early days for the all-new, free Standard, but it’s hard to tell if its management actually has a clue what it’s doing at the moment. It may need those small shops it has abandoned more than it thinks.
Still, there’s always its website – but can anyone work out what the hell its leader column is talking about?
(See also: The Urban Woo: “Today, for example, we had a feature on safari dating, featuring the type of braying young nitwit Londoners I’d run a bloody mile from.”)