Business Permitting

Imperfect Fit: Abercrombie Store Threatens Location In Tailored-Clothing Mecca Savile Row

We’ve all heard the various means of describing the inappropriate place for an otherwise benign thing, rendering the otherwise benign thing a hazard or a liability or just plain offensive.  In 1855, the author Robert De Valcourt referred to, “An awkward man in society is like a bull in a china shop, always doing mischief.”  Robert De Valcourt, The Illustrated Manners Book: A Manual of Good Behavior and Polite Accomplishments (1855).  In 1926, Justice Sutherland opined, “A nuisance may be merely a right thing in the wrong place — like a pig in the parlor instead of the barnyard.”  Village of Euclid v. Ambler Realty Co., 272 U.S. 365 (1926).

Village of Euclid, of course, upheld the constitutionality of the zoning concept, a replacement of single purposes ordinances and private litigation for land use management.  See David Owens, Land Use Law In North Carolina (2d ed. 2011).

“Late Ming dynasty, kaolin and pottery stone foundation, cobalt firing enamelling with Arabic lettering.  If only I could find a well-tailored suit and some skinny jeans to go with this vase.” 

Well, the “pig” or the “bull” in one particular instance is anticipated to be an Abercrombie and Fitch children’s store in the heart of London.  

The “china shop” or the “parlor”?  Well, that may be Savile Row, legendary collection of fine British tailors and suitmakers to the rich and famous.  Consider this quote from Mark Henderson, chairman of “heritage tailor Gieves & Hawkes”, reported by CNBC about objection to the Abercrombie store:

“Opening a kids store on Savile Row is a somewhat bizarre thing to do. It’s a fairly narrow street, it’s got its own atmosphere to it.  It’s just fundamentally a mistake from Abercrombie – they don’t get everything right.” 

We don’t purport to know the land use laws in London.  We’ll leave that to the Ealing Common Land Use Barrister blog.  But it’s always interesting to see just how common and universal land use issues can be.  

It’s also interesting to see how different motives underpin all land use issues.  For example, one might assume the “hubub” over the Abercrombie store is a degradation of the historical nature of the narrow street, as Mr. Henderson alludes.  Well, maybe the distaste is different for another, even another from a seemingly similar perspective.  Consider this worry about “higher rents”, from John Hitchcock of “bespoke tailor Anderson & Sheppard” (man, I love the British):

“One or two of the tailors are concerned it might put the rents up, and it will do, I suppose.  There’s only so much rent we can pay. Our costs are already high as we make every suit by hand – unlike the big chains which don’t make their products on the premises.”

The Lesson of the Day
Land use decisions are nuanced legally but they are also very nuanced politically.  In this one space, one street within one small universe of British tailors, we have two very distinct motives for refusing the Abercrombie store.  Yes, both are opposed to the store, but each is opposed for a different reason, which means a political salve must address, at least, two distinct concerns.

One must fully and fairly understand the forces against which one is working, before success is at hand.  I think Sun Tzu, the Zhou Dynasty Land Use Litigator, said that.

Mike Thelen practices in Womble, Carlyle’s Real Estate Litigation and Land Use practice group. He regularly represents a wide variety of clients, from local governments to businesses, in land use and land development matters in both state and federal venues throughout North Carolina.  Follow the North Carolina Land Use Litigator on Twitter at @nclanduselaw and “like” us on Facebook here.

Categories: Business Permitting

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