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The U.K. is OK in L.A.

British flag

TEXT OF STORY

Renita Jablonski: Americans are still the world's greatest overachievers. The annual World Competitiveness Rankings were released today. The U.S. tops a list for the 15th straight year. Silver and bronze medals go to Singapore and Hong Kong, respectively.

Then, there are the Brits, not even in the top five. It happens to be BritWeek in LA. The idea is to let Californians know just how important England is to the state's economy. We sent Cash Peters to check in with his countrymen.


Cash Peters: BritWeek's an annual event in L.A. -- annual in the sense that it started last year and now they're having another one.

British Consul-General Bob Peirce:

Bob Peirce: It's part celebration, it's part marketing . . .

Peters: It's about 90 percent marketing.

Peirce: Well, that's how we justify doing it, yes.

Yeah, but it's a great idea, though. The United Kingdom is a huge investor in California, through companies such as BP, Vodafone, plus a bunch of shops they want you to visit.

Peirce: We have different 24 British retailers, famous brands, participating in a BritWalk.

It's true -- they have a leaflet. The first store I went to was Coco de Mer, and what could be more British-sounding than that?

Serene Chicora: We sell lingerie and accoutrements.

Peters: Well what kind of accoutrements?

Chicora: Sex toys.

Uh oh. Next -- no, you know, this is public radio -- I went to The English Laundry, a British clothes store selling shirts with cutting-edge designs on them. Manager Michelle Donati:

Michelle Donati: Look at this one, it's beautiful.

Peters: What makes it British?

Donati: It's just the design, the inspiration.

Peters: It actually looks like a snail covered in ink crawled all over it.

Of course, it's all very well roping stores into this great ballyhoo. Question is, is the BritWeek actually attracting American customers?

Donati: It's fun, you know?

Peters: But it's working, is it?

Donati: Um, no.

Peters: No? How many people are on the BritWalk?

Donati: Actually, I don't know yet. I don't know when it actually . . .

Peters: It's zero, isn't it?

Donati: It's zero.

Peters: Nobody has got this leaflet, nobody knows it's on.

Donati: Not yet, not yet.

Peirce: People can go from one British store to another. Some of them will be offering attractions, glass of champagne, whatever it may be, in their stores.

Peters: So I'm going to get champagne at every store I go to?

Peirce: It's up to the individual stores what they do.

Peters: So where's my champagne and cookie and stuff?

Donati: Well, we don't give out champagne and cookies.

Peters: It's to welcome me as a Brit.

Donati: No absolutely, but right now were short of champagne.

That's so British. But behind all this is a serious message:

Peirce: The truth about the U.K. that we really need to get across is that this is the most important business relationship that California has.

It is. Thanks, Bob.

BritWalk Video: We're bold, we're bright, and we're British.

Yes we are. In Los Angeles, I'm Cash Peters for Marketplace.

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