Institute of Place Management Article

Let’s do something radical to boost town centres

By Simon Quin, Director Institute of Place Management

The Daily Mirror on Saturday 3rd March ran a story headlined “Britain’s high streets becoming ‘ghost towns’ due to brutal closures” which detailed further retail collapses, the high level of retail vacancy in some centres, notably Stoke-on-Trent, Dewsbury and Newport, and words of worry from retail expert Richard Another great article from Place MagazineHyman. The story highlighted concerns from Richard Hyman that many retailers are in denial over changing shopping habits and also contained various references from local retailers to the perceived lack of or wrong response from local authorities.

Institute of Place Management Findings

Research by the Institute of Place Management published in the Journal of Place Management and Development (Improving the vitality and viability of the UK High Street by 2020: Identifying priorities and a framework for action) notes that “dramatic changes have been a constantly recurring theme” in respect of retail centres as they have seen the rise of department stores, chain stores, supermarkets, shopping malls, the impact of refrigeration, increased car ownership, retail deregulation, out of town retailing and online. Having undertaken a systematic review of the literature relating to retail centres and then working with stakeholders in 10 town centres, we were able to identify some two hundred factors that can impact on town centre health. Most significantly we also identified the 25 most important factors that are controllable locally.

The 4 Rs of Regeneration

The research identified the ‘4 Rs of Regeneration’. The first of these is Repositioning and requires collaboration amongst different stakeholders to share and analyse data and information about what is happening in the town centre.  Do stakeholders, whether from the public, private or community sector, really understand the forces of change that are For support for Town and City Centre contact Institute of Place Managementimpacting their centre? In the Daily Mirror article Richard Hyman suggests they do not and we agree. We are currently working to develop dashboards that stakeholders can access to monitor the performance of their centre looking at key indicators like footfall and sales. Repositioning enables towns to recognise the failure of previous strategies, identify new ways of expanding economic activity, and find ways to improve existing retailing.

The second R is Reinventing. Individual retailers are very familiar with this. They adapt opening hours to different circumstances, they segment their stores to fit market niches, they adapt the store to meet the physical requirements of the individual unit. How can this be applied town wide? We think it is essential to understand the customers you are looking to serve. To know what kind of town you are and to meet those customers’ needs, and not just retail needs. Find out what you can about the people who use your town and remember that some towns have many visitors that will not be obvious in a simple look at the catchment area.

Rebranding is the third R. This is about communicating the image and identity of your town. What is different, what is unique about you? It is now recognised that good place brands cannot be imposed from above but need to be something that reach the right audience by advertising in Place Magazineis co-created, hence again requiring collaboration and engagement.

Restructuring is the final R and in some instances is the most difficult to achieve. It is the recognition that old systems are not working, that strategic networks and partnerships need to be created to address the scale of challenge. We are seeing the difference that Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are making to town and city centres around the country. These actively engage many more of the location stakeholders in decision-making, which is why the Institute of Place Management is keen to support them through The BID Foundation. A BID takes time to establish and it is not the only route to Restructuring. Local partnerships can be established, but they need to be strategic to be effective.

Some articles you read would suggest that all high streets are set to collapse. That this is not the case should encourage you to take the steps you need in your centre. In 2010, Altrincham, one of the 10 towns we worked with on the High Street research, was the town making headlines as a ghost town. Retail vacancy was around a third of units. Today the town is a thriving centre, vacancy has plummeted, footfall has risen by a quarter, new businesses are arriving and new investment is happening. You can read more in the Manchester Evening News article from February  ‘From ghost town to boom town – how Altrincham became the place to be’. We feature Altrincham’s story in our research article along with other useful initiatives in 9 other towns.

It is time to do something radical and adopt a new approach for your town if you want it to have a future.

Read more articles like this by subscribing to Place Magazine here

Read more articles from Institute of Place Management here

 

 

 

How to improve the health of your high street

Five things you can do for your High Street

By Cathy Parker & Simon Quin, Institute of Place Management

Can you improve the health of your High Street? Newly published research suggests there are initiatives that can be effective but they require partnership and collaboration.  Town and City Centre - Institute of Place Management

Although some did better than others, many retailers posted disappointing figures for High Street sales over the Christmas period. There are many reasons for this, not least the growth in online retailing, but research by the Institute of Place Management shows that decline has been a long time in the making. The fundamental reason high streets are struggling is that decision make

 

rs and stakeholders are not adapting effectively because they don’t act collectively.

Stories about the high street are always featured each month in Place Magazine
Read more from IPM and BID Foundation in Place Magazine

The High Street UK 2020 research findings identified 201 things that can improve the vitality and viability of traditional retail areas. Not all are relevant everywhere and not all can be locally implemented. The 201 factors were assessed by leading experts as part of the research project and the five most important have been identified.

Top of the list of priorities is ensuring the trading and activity hours of the location meet the needs of the catchment. Many shops and services are stuck in a 9-5 trading pattern that does not reflect the time that many people want to use the centre, especially in places that have a high number of commuters living nearby.

 

The second area is improving the visual appearance. This can involve large projects like street improvements, better lighting and so on – but it also covers basic cleanliness. Unfortunately, too often, commercial waste and consumer litter or the poor maintenance of property act as a blight, undermining investment in the physical realm, and just putting people off.

The third priority is ensuring the mix of retailers and other services is providing the right offer. A bit like the first priority, a thorough understanding of who is and who is not using the town and why is key here. As individual landlords are free to let their properties to whoever

they please, managing the overall offer of a location is challenging. Much provision is complementary – a town may sustain a butcher, greengrocers, fishmonger and deli for example, but if any of these shut down, then it has consequences for the other shops as it is the linked trip behavior of the consumers that is keeping them all in business.

Having a shared vision and strategy for the location was the fourth priority we identified. This is the mechanism by which stakeholders can be encouraged to develop their business in line with an overall plan to improve the high street. A vision, strategy or plan is important for attracting investment from both the public and private sectors. Many town centres just do not seem to have a purpose now they are no longer the centres of retail they once were.

And in fifth place came the quality of the experience. Again, this relates to the collective offer of the location. A number of positive customer service interactions in retailers and service outlets can be wiped out immediately by a surly bus driver or a dark and foreboding multi-storey car park.

The actions that will improve footfall on the UK high streets have now been identified by our research, and you can access them with a more detailed explanation. They are available free of charge at Revive & Thrive supports the work of BID Foundation in our high streetshttp://www.placemanagement.org/jpmd-10-(4)/. Nevertheless, we do not underestimate the challenge ahead for individual locations wanting to change their prognosis. As collaboration is key to success then new governance and place management models are needed and this is one of the reasons the Institute is delighted to be working with BIDs from across the country through the new industry body www.thebidfoundation.com

 

Felltarn Friends Are Busy This Christmas Creating Town Trails!

After the resounding success of the Summer Trails produced by creative duo Claire and Amy of Felltarn Friends, the Lake District based design company have been commissioned to get back to the drawing board to come up with some fun, festive family trails.

Felltarn Friends are members of the Revive & Thrive Business GroupStatistics showed an increase of nearly 500% in hits on the visit-kendal website throughout the duration of the Summer Trails, so for Kendal BID to employ Felltarn Friends to come up with something for locals and visitors to enjoy was a natural choice.

But Felltarn Friends don’t only operate in their local area – oh no! A commission from as far away as Basingstoke Together came through for a Christmas Family Trail with a Peter Pan theme to tie in with the town’s annual panto.

Felltarn Friends want to create a trail for YOUR town – and it doesn’t matter where you are, we can still plan and design something to help engage the general public with the businesses and services on offer across your BID area.

So, what do we do?Choose Revive & Thrive for your Business Improvement District Feasibility services

  • First, we need a simple brief from you regarding the theme or objective you want to focus on. You may want to promote evening trade in your town with a trail featuring places to eat and drink, or tie-in with a local festival, or simply keep it seasonal – Easter, Summer or Christmas for example. It’s up to you!
  • Next, we liaise with businesses within the BID area to give each one the opportunity to take part – asking them if they’d be happy popping something in the window to look out for on the trail, place an advert on the trail map, or provide a special offer for trail participants.
  • Then it’s time to get creative and design the trail! The Felltarn Friends style is quite distinctive and instantly recognisable, yet we produce something bespoke and unique with each project.
  • Once you’ve approved your trail design, we send it to print, or send you the artwork to print yourselves, the choice is yours.
  • We can help with social media marketing too by designing the graphics for an advertising campaign for your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and website.

Also – include a selection of adverts on the trail map to promote additional services, projects and incentives in your town to get people into the BID area.

Get in touch!

  • Contact Amy amy@felltarn.co.uk or 07846805602 and have a chat about how we can help you achieve a higher footfall and an increase in business awareness around your BID zone.

We are currently looking at projects for Spring, Easter and even Summer – take a look at the pictures to get a feel for our services.

More stories like this one from Felltarn Friends can be found in Place Magazine each month

 

Family Trails for Town Centres

Summer Trails for Town Centres –

A Case Study

 

Earlier this year Kendal Business Improvement District (BID) decided to research trails for town centres in order to create an even greater experience for their residents and visitors.

May 2017 – Initial Brief from Kendal Business Improvement District-

  • Plan and design 6 Trails (4xChildren’s; 1xHistory; 1xEvening Trail).
  • To run from mid July-mid September 2017.
  • Incorporate all businesses in whole BID zone.
  • Utilise the “Kendal Branding” designed in previous BID initiative.
  • Link in with 3 town centre umbrella installations.
  • Trail maps to be FREE to participants.
Read more articles about this case study on town trails for town centres in issue 17 of Place Magazine
Read more about Felltarn Trails and other articles and stories like this in this month’s Place Magazine

Kendal BID initially contacted Felltarn Friends with a general idea for children’s trails for town centres, specifically around Kendal. A map required designing in a fun and interactive style to engage with local families and visitors to the town. The objective of the trail would be to boost footfall around the entire BID zone and encourage interaction between the general public and a wider range of businesses than they usually visit.

After a very enthusiastic brainstorming session, it was decided that Felltarn Friends would create 4 children’s trails on 2 separate maps, a history trail for those interested in the culture and unique character of Kendal, and, to boost the waning evening trade in the town, a night-time trail featuring the range of bars, pubs and eateries available to visit once the shops are closed.

As Kendal BID were to undertake the installation of 3 beautiful, bright, eye-catching umbrella displays in town-centre locations over the summer, Felltarn Friends were asked to incorporate the umbrella theme into the children’s trails to reinforce the attractions.

 

Phase 1: Information Gathering and Planning.

One of Kendal's Family Trails for Town Centres
Take Kendal’s Boozy Beer and Wine Trail
  • Contact all BID members to gather numbers for participation.
  • Offer advertising opportunity.
  • Plan routes to include all interested businesses.
  • Give all BID members opportunity to devise a Trail Treat.

Throughout June, Felltarn Friends contacted every BID member to request their participation in the Summer trails for town centres. By ‘participation’, it simply meant authorising a picture to be placed in the window of the business. Each picture would be no larger than approximately A5 in size, and either be an umbrella symbol to find and tick off a list, or a poster denoting the route of the trail.

The business owners had the option to participate or not, and were also given the opportunity to place a free advert for their business on one of the trail maps (first-come-first-served basis.)

Felltarn Friends proposed an additional feature – the ‘Trail Treat’. Again, this was optional, but allowed each business the chance to engage with trail participants with a unique special offer of their choice. Trail Treats ranged from 20% off a photoshoot at Paul Holland Photography, to free lollies at Todds of Kendal, a high-five at Costa, a pen at NatWest Bank and a portion of chips or soft drink at Fish Express. In total, 42 businesses across the BID zone offered Trail Treats across the 6 trails.

All pubs, bars and restaurants were given the same information, and notified that they would all be featured on the Evening Trail.

With over 140 businesses requesting participation in the trails, it was then possible to plan the trail routes and decide where to place the umbrella symbols for children to find.

 

Phase 2: Design.

An example of a children's trail for town centres
Whilst parents are one the Booze Trail why not encourage to children take a trail of their own
  • Children’s Trails for town centres to be in a recognisable ‘Felltarn Friends’ style.
  • 10 umbrella pictures to find in windows and tick off on the map.
  • Highlight all eateries open during the day.
  • Highlight play areas and picnic places.
  • Include advert for Swipii (previous BID initiative)
  • Include activity page on reverse.
  • Include advert for Kendal Gift Card (previous BID initiative) and weekly competition to win one.
  • History and Evening trail designs to be unique and appealing to mature demographic.
  • Include adverts for local businesses.
  • Include advert for Swipii (previous BID initiative).
  • Include advert for Kendal Gift Card (previous BID initiative) and weekly competition to win one.
  • Include trail-relevant fun-facts and information.

 

A map of the BID zone was designed from scratch and the trail routes plotted out. Our Trademark Felltarn Friends design style featured In the Children’s Trails for town centres maps, however we wanted something unique for the Evening Trail and a more traditional feel to the History Trail.

Hand-drawn sketches of each pub and bar featured on the Evening Trail which also incorporated fun alcohol themed facts and a mini-directory of all places in Kendal to eat in the evening. Every type of eatery in the BID zone was included from fast food outlets to independent bistros and restaurant chains.

The History Trails for town centres combined photographs, drawings, facts and information about the town, and the route incorporated 18 specific points of historical interest around the BID zone as well as encouraging participants to explore the town’s alleyways and yards.

The Kendal Branding (a previous BID initiative) was included on all the trails to ensure design continuity not only for these trails but also to tie in with other initiatives in the town and strengthen the message that Kendal has lots to offer.

 

Phase 3: Print and Distribution.

Download an example marketing document for these trails for town centre
Download the Kendal Trail Marketing document here
  • 6000 (1500 of each trail) to be printed.
  • Locate approx. 30 locations to be pick-up points (in and outside the BID zone).
  • Distribute trail maps to all pick up points.
  • Replenish pick-up points regularly throughout the duration of the trails.

The initial print run of 1500 copies of each trail map (A3 folded to DL size) was covered by the project fee. The BID provided leaflet holders and approx. 30 mostly BID members – shops, cafés, hotels and visitor centres agreed to be ‘pick-up points’.

Felltarn Friends organised getting the relevant umbrella pictures into the correct windows for the Children’s Trails, as well as the Trail Treat signs.

A local printer in Kendal was selected, and once delivered, Felltarn Friends joined forces with the BID manager to get the maps out to all the pick-up points for the start of the summer holidays.

After just 2 weeks, it became clear that a second print run was required, and a further 10000 trail maps were produced.

Felltarn Friends and the BID manager worked together to coordinate the replenishment of the pick-up points to ensure all were kept well stocked.

 

PR and Marketing:An example for a prize point for trails for town centres

  • Advertise the trails prior to launch across the South Lakes region.
  • Design flyers for school children.
  • Design banners for social media.
  • Design flyers for businesses to place on countertops.
  • Advertise in local publications.

Administrators for the Visit Kendal website were given relevant information to create new pages and downloadable versions of the trails. A direct link was set up to use on advertising material.

Flyers were designed by Felltarn Friends, one for the Children’s Trails and one for the History and Evening Trails for town centres. The Children’s Trails flyer was distributed to all primary schools in the South Lakes region. Both flyers were distributed to businesses across the BID zone and further afield to place on counter tops.

Kendal BID Manager sent out a Press Release to local publications, including an image of the flier artwork. Articles appeared in the Westmorland Gazette newspaper and Local Choice magazine.

A social media campaign was launched across Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, utilising hashtags that were also advertised on the trails and flyers.

Local bloggers picked up on the trials after their launch and independent articles and posts were produced, as well as regular activity across social media platforms in the form of post shares, photo uploads and discussions.

 

Feedback and Testimonials:  Don't forget your umbrella when taking trails for town centres

The number of trail maps needing to be replenished in each of the pick-up points showed an average total of 1500 maps per week over the 9-week duration of the trails, split relatively evenly across the 4 maps.

Verbal feedback from trail participants to Felltarn Friends and BID businesses was all positive. Parents were happy that there was something fun for children to take part in, and with 4 different Children’s Trails it meant they could come back time after time. The umbrella theme and link to the displays was commended, as was the trail design style.

Kendal TIC had one of the fastest turnovers of trail maps, particularly the History Trail as tourists to the town found it a great way to explore and learn about Kendal.

Due to a well-documented lull in recent years in night-time trade in the town, the Evening Trail was deemed a well needed and fun way to encourage people into the bars, pubs and restaurants. The unique design style using sketches of all pubs and bars was a huge hit, with some locations asking for framed copies of the trail map.

BID businesses were inundated with extra footfall from the trails to the point that they ran out of their Trail Treat giveaways! Business owners and managers commented on the obvious increase in shoppers, browsers and awareness of their business. The trail concept in general was commended as a very good way to promote what Kendal has to offer throughout the BID zone.

The BID manager and board were very pleased with the planning, design, implementation and outcome of the trails project. Statistics from the Visit Kendal website show an increase in visits to the site during the first month of the trails up by almost 500% on the previous period, with 3400 visits to the trail pages.

Felltarn Friends have since been commissioned to create a Christmas Trail for Kendal BID, and have had interest from other BIDs regarding trails for their towns.