My worries over positive market research results
Iwas recently taken to task for making disparaging comments about the town’s economic development chaps. I intended nothing personal in my remarks – I’m certain that each of them is a good man (or woman) and true. The thing that worries me is that if someone is given the task of developing the town’s economic development, it is that end and that alone toward which they will quite properly channel their greatest endeavours. Trouble is, life is not merely about economics. It is interesting to find that research has shown the areas of Britain in which the happiest people dwell are mainly located in the North of the country – areas which are generally held to be of relative economic deprivation. Mrs B and I were visited last Sunday evening by a friend, a voluble Frenchwoman who had, until a few years ago, lived in Ashford. Pretty well the first thing she said was (and here I roughly translate, leaving out the expletives): “Where has Ashford gone? What has happened? What are they doing to the town?” I became somewhat defensive, played devil’s advocate and tried to explain that a town, any town, has to some extent be run as a business and it is in the nature of people who run businesses to want their enterprise to grow. I told her of the
‘Where has Ashford gone? What are they doing to the town?’
council’s plans to build many more houses not only within the town’s immediate boundaries but also on Chilmington Green. I voiced the council’s intention to attract businesses to the town, thus creating more jobs for the people who would move here to occupy the new houses. I showed her Gerry Clarkson’s enthusiastic “Council Talk” column in last week’s KE. I told her of the wonderful rise in the number of hairdressers in the town. I pointed out Cllr Clarkson’s assertion that a market research company had declared Ashford to be voted “the best business location in Kent”. I find two things worrying about this. The first is that the study involved interviews with a variety of business people… “who had not even considered relocating in Kent”. The second was pointed out by my French friend: “The conclusions of any market research depend very much on who commissioned the study.” I don’t know who actually did commission the study – but I’ll bet my boots it wasn’t Scunthorpe.