Mention Albert Road in Southsea and what image does it conjure up?
The likelihood is that you’ll think of the eclectic mix of independent shops and businesses arranged along this winding and much-loved part of the city’s fabric.
It’s what gives the road its character and makes it stand out in an age of shiny shopping centres and malls full of chains and big brand names.
So it’s entirely understandable that the locals are far from impressed at news that Costa Coffee is planning to move in to Albert Road, adding it to a burgeoning empire of ubiquitous and identikit coffee shops.
Traders offering a similar service now fear they will be hit by having such a well-known name in the vicinity and say that the road’s ‘independent ethos’ should be preserved.
There’s talk of people struggling to pay business rates which are a drop in the ocean for a company with a worldwide operation.
Critics may say that smacks of self-interest and that Costa will only open an outlet if it thinks enough people will go there. But we have some sympathy with the little fish who fear that the big fish will swallow up some of their trade.
So can Costa and Albert Road’s existing caterers and coffee shops live side by side? Portsmouth City Council leader Donna Jones thinks so. She says it’s good to see a big brand putting money into the area.
Cllr Jones explained: ‘Albert Road is a vibrant part of Portsmouth and I welcome the competition.’
That view is unlikely to be shared by those who fear a drop in trade when Costa opens for business. But the harsh reality is that the big boy is on his way.
The only answer for those coffee shops and cafes already in Albert Road is to provide the good service, quality and value that inspire customer loyalty.