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.

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Read more articles from Institute of Place Management here

 

 

 

Digital influence – the value of a high ranking for your town

Do you know where your town ranks in the UK Digital Influence Index?

GFirst LEP recently shared the results of the successful #WDYT campaign with the LEP network, inviting towns to find out where their High Streets rank in the UK Digital Influence Index and the opportunity to take part in the campaign.

The #WDYT campaign in both Cheltenham and Gloucester saw each town feature within the top 12 most digitally active towns in the UK, ranking above significantly larger towns and cities. On the back of these fantastic results the GFirst LEP shared their success and invited other towns and LEPs to participate in the #WDYT campaign. Read on for an excerpt of this letter.

We all know the significance of ‘place’ in current policy thinking and we believe that the success of our high streets is vital in place-shaping and influencing the overall economic success of our LEP geographies.

The pilot addressed three of the key recommendations of the DCLG commissioned 2020 Digital High Street report: Digital Skills, High Street Lab, and High Street Digital Health Index.

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Keep up to date with the Digital Influence Index by subscribing to Place Magazine

At the start of the pilot we researched the digital output of a wide range of High Streets measuring the online presence of local retailers and the use of social media platforms such as Twitter or Facebook. It revealed that up to 74% of all High Street retailers have no active social media presence, 50% have no e-commerce facility and 40% have no website at all.

These results suggest that local retailers were not taking up the opportunities created by digital platforms, and analysis of current and future shopping habits all point to the increasing importance of these channels in retail purchases. Research from Deloitte makes it clear that close to 40% of all OFFLINE transactions are influenced by digital communications.

To improve the digital output of local retailers the #WDYT (What do you think?) campaign launched last year prioritising the development of digital skills, knowledge sharing, and the creation of a robust nationwide digital index that covers data from 150K retail locations in 1,300 towns.

To date, the pilot program has helped a number of Gloucestershire towns and over 1,000 retailers significantly increase their digital skills. Both pilot towns of Gloucester and Cheltenham now sit in the 12 most digitally active towns in the country.

Stafford, another pilot town, has risen 93 places to 21st in the Digital Influence Index. They have reported a week on week increase in footfall for the duration of the campaign, with footfall increases of over 22% on data from last year.

This campaign has proven to be a catalyst that encourages High Street businesses to begin or accelerate their digital journey. We are extending our ranking technology to include each retailer within each town.

The outcomes of the #WDYT campaign are clear:

  1. Digital output drives local footfall
  2. Ranking data is a great incentive for improvement
  3. Every town is the sum of its digital parts By increasing digital output, High Streets can reach established or new customers and by working together local retailers can increase their collective and individual influence.

Recent headlines have reported the failure of the “Portas” towns and it is interesting to note that all of these towns have a very low Digital Influence ranking. (See press release).

We are also working with other key organisations like BIRA, ATCM and ACS to raise awareness of the Digital Influence Index and to ensure its place as a key economic and productivity driver that must be invested in. We would like to invite you to be part of this by accessing the freely available Digital Influence Index for each of your towns.

 

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

 

New industry body renews High Street optimism

Revive & Thrive is pleased to support BID Foundation

The BID Foundation launch is welcome news for the Business Improvement District industry

Revive & Thrive is very pleased to share the following announcement about the launch of the BID Foundation.

All involved in place management will know that national representation for Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) has been in a state of flux for at least two years now.  Revive & Thrive is pleased that the BID Foundation will be addressing this.Success of BID Foundation is crucial for the Business Improvement District industry

Revive & Thrive and Place Magazine stands in a unique position in being open to BIDs and all towns or cities, irrespective of size, and all organisations representing place.  Its membership and subscriptions complements and does not conflict or compete with the aims of the BID Foundation.

All at Revive & Thrive and Place Magazine fully support the BID Foundation and offer full support in making this new organisation, built on strong foundations, a great success.

Revive & Thrive and Place Magazine offers its resources and networks to help in anyway to ensure BID Foundation success.

BID Foundation Press Release 17th January 2017

The BID Foundation has launched today (Wednesday 17th January) to meet challenges facing commercial districts up and down the country. Against a back-drop of ever-more difficult trading conditions and local government cuts, the new industry-led body will help Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) manage town and city centre retail, leisure, and other commercial areas more effectively.

The new membership organisation is an alliance of leading BIDs and the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University, which has been appointed as its independent operator. The BID Foundation was set up in response to wide-scale consultation and is led by an elected council of 14 BID Chief Executives from across the country.

Commenting on the launch, Andrew Cooper, Chair of The BID Foundation and CEO of Leeds BID, said: “BIDs will now be able to work together more successfully to encourage change and investment in our town and city centres. We want BIDs to make an even more significant contribution locally and nationally and we need to engage more meaningfully with local and national governments and the wider business community to do that.”

The new industry body will provide strategic direction and practical support to BIDs. It will champion the revitalisation of the high street and commercial areas by raising standards, sharing knowledge and resources, and building a trusted and representative voice.

The BID concept started 15 years ago in the UK, with the operational priorities of making areas cleaner, safer and more attractive.  This remit has matured, meaning BIDs are increasingly working with local partners to influence the economic development of the areas they manage and address big issues such as rough sleeping. Now there are nearly 300 UK BIDs and around 25 new ones are being elected each year.  Annually, BIDs contribute a total £110 million investment to UK towns and cities. 

Stefan Gurney, Vice Chair of The BID Foundation and Executive Director of Norwich BID, said: “It is great to be at the forefront of setting the vision and strategy for the future direction of the BIDs industry. The BID Foundation has been developed by the BID community and we aim to represent the industry with a clear, collaborative voice.”

The Institute of Place Management will provide specialist support and Revive & Thrive wishes the BID Foundation the best of luckaccreditation to members of The BID Foundation to ensure consistent high standards of operation, accountability, and transparency. BIDs will also draw on innovation and research insights from the Institute to inform their future business plans.

According to recent research from the Institute, the fundamental reason many commercial areas are struggling, is that decision makers and stakeholders do not adapt effectively to ongoing changes because they do not act collectively. BIDs provide this essential collaborative approach because they are business-led partnerships where retailers and other services pay an additional levy to fund a collective business plan aimed at improving a specific area.

Chair of the Institute of Place Management, Professor Cathy Parker, said: “We know how important BIDs are and The BID Foundation offers a way to increase both the local impact of each BID involved and further develop the model as a trusted form of urban management.”

The BID Foundation is open to membership from any operating BID. More details are available at www.thebidfoundation.com

 

The BID Foundation

The BID Foundation is the new industry-led body for Business Improvement Districts created in response to wide-scale consultation. The BID Foundation is an alliance of leading BIDs and the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University. The BID Foundation has been created to elevate standards, lobby and provide practical support to those within the Business Improvement District industry.

A council of BID senior practitioners govern The BID Foundation.  Nominations for council election were held in 2017 and 14 BID CEOs have been elected to serve by their peers.

Link: www.thebidfoundation.com

Contact: Andrew Cooper (Chair of The BID Foundation and CEO of Leeds BID)

Email: andrew.cooper@leedsbid.co.uk

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