Improving High Street Performance: What are we trying to achieve?


We have just finished a review of the published academic retail, shopping and town centre literature so we can identify all the factors that affect high street performance.  We have read over 170 studies and identified a range of factors that affect performance (more of those in a future blog). However, what we have found really surprising is the number of different interpretations of performance.  In other words, what  researchers choose to study.  These are either factors they investigate because they may be changing (e.g.  levels of investment) or ones they think should be improved (e.g. visitor satisfaction).  Of course we have evidence that researchers use the ‘old favourites’ such as footfall, vacancy rates, vitality and viability. But we have found 98 others!

I have published the full list below, along with our definition (see * for exceptions) and an example of an article that refers to the factor. Our next step will be to identify the ones that have the most validity – or mean the same thing to both academics researching performance and practitioners who are trying to measure it. As always we are grateful for any advice, opinions and feedback.

Performance Measure Definition Example Reference
Accessibility Centre accessible by a variety of transport modes (walking, bike, car, bus etc.) Brockman, 2008; Clark, 2006
Achieving town centre business plan Achieving plan agreed by town centre stakeholders Paddison, 2003
Adaptability Centre’s ability to absorb or react to global economic and social change Hall, 2011
Amount of multiple retailers represented in a centre Measure to establish position in order of centres Schiller and Jarrett, 1985
Anchor stores Presence of anchor stores – which give locations their basic character and signify importance Thorpe, 1968
Attractiveness of centre How attractive centre is to consumer – how attractive they find stores and overall offer Dennis et al, 2003
Availability of sites for retail development Available of sites in in or near central locations for development Adams et al, 2002
BID’s Establishment of a Business Improvement District enabling local businesses, services and council to collaborate De Magalhaes, 2012
Business rates Business rates are related to rentable value Singleton, 2014
Carpark usage Occupancy rate of car-park spaces Hogg etal, 2004
Catchment area Area from which catchment is drawn – e.g. how far shoppers are willing to travel to centre Dennis et al, 2002
Centre choice The propensity of shoppers to choose one centre over others Thomas et al, 2007
Patronage Preference of centre – implies frequency and/or convenience Reimers and Clulow, 2009
Resilience Ability of a centre to absorb shock or reconfigure/restructure and adapt to it Wrigley and Dolega, 2011; Balsas 2014
Centre turnover/sales Usually measured in sales per m2 , so comparisons across centres can be made Mingardo and van Meerkerk, 2012
Centre image Merchandising, accessibility, service and atmospherics. Adapted from shopping centre image Sit, Merrilees and Birch, 2003
Commercial yields Level of return on commercial property investment Hutchinson et al, 2008
Concentration of retail Co-location of retail in a specific area. The opposite of retail fragmentation. Robertson, 1997
Consumer utility Pedestrian route choice, heavily influenced by entry-points, location pattern of shops and distance Borgers and Timmermans, 1986
Covenant strength risk The risk associated with the financial worth of a particular tenant Hutchinson et al, 2008
Cross shopping Visiting more that one store when visiting a retail centre Bodkin and Lord, 1997
Customer preference of one format over the other (mall vs street) % of catchment that prefer traditional shopping centres vs shopping centres (or have no preference) Reimers and Clulow, 2009
Customer satisfaction with centre The level of satisfaction with the global level of service offered by a centre Leo and Philipe, 2002
Customer/catchment views and behaviour (inc. patronage) The perceptions of the centre held by customers/catchment and use of the centre by customers/catchment Powe and Hart, 2008; Oppewal et al, 2007
Dealing with retail change Actively managing retail change Tomalin and Pal, 1994
Development of out-of-town centre Proxy measure for inability of local planning controls to restrict out-of-town development. Guy, 1999
Dissatisfaction with grocery-shopping opportunities Dissatisfactition with grocery-shopping opportunities is proposed to be a major factor in out-shopping Thomas and Bromley, 2003; Findlay and Sparks 2009.
Revitilisation Increasing activity, sales and property prices. Improving safety and public realm. Bringing in more customers. Hernandez and Jones, 2005
Entertainment orientation Amount and variety of entertainment offered by a centre De Nisco & Napolitano, 2006
Entry and exit of small retailers Rate at shich small retailers enter and exit centres Wrigley et al, 2009
Environmental quality Look’ of centre, cleanliness Bennison and Davies, 1980
Footfall Number of pedestrians counted over a specific time period, in a specific location Warnaby and Yip, 2005
Duration of trip/time spent in centre Length of time spent in centre. Teller, 2008
Frequency of visit Number of times shoppers visit centre Teller, 2008
Functionality The degree to which a centre fulfills a role – e.g. service centre, employment centre, residential centre, tourist centre. Powe and Hart, 2008
Structure Physical layout of centre, store location, external appearance (fascias etc.) Dawson, 1988
In-town spend vs outshopping Amount of money spent in the (nearest) centre compared to outside of it (e.g. in another centre) Sullivan and Savitt, 1997
Liveability Centres are accessible without a car and consumers can fulfill needs without travelling to another centre Rotem-Mindali, 2012
Living standards Level of personal prosperity Moseley, 1973
Loyalty Take-up of town loyalty scheme Hallsworth and Worthington, 2000
Market share Share of total catchment spend taken by one centre Kubis and Hartmann, 2007
Number of stops on shopping trip Measure of the number of attractions (shops, services, leisure) a visitor makes O’Kelly, 1981
Office, industrial and retail rental values The rental value of commercial property in a centre, across three sectors Jones and Orr, 1999
Order of centre/position in retail hierarchy Position in the retail centre hierarchy. Super-regional, regional, sub-regional, district, local. Teller, 2008
Pedestrianization The provision and type of pedestrian space (streets, open malls, ‘skywalks’ etc.) Cui, Allan and Lin, 2013
Perceptions of retail tenant mix Shoppers’ perceptions of the retail tenant mix Teller and Elms, 2012
Pleasure, arousal Emotional reaction to centre De Nisco and Warnaby, 2014
Probability of consumer at a given point of origin travelling to a given shopping centre Contours are drawn around the centre to show the probablity of a consumer in that zone visiting centre Huff, 1963
Public realm Quality of physical public space Biddulph, 2011
Public space Amount of space that is not in private ownership, that citizens can freely use Cohen, 1996
Public transport usage Usage of different modes of public transport Hogg et al, 2004
Range/quality of goods The range of goods on offer in a centre Thomas and Bromley, 2003
Regeneration Strengthening economic linkages, development attracting commercial investment and consumers Smith, 2004; Otsuka and Reeve, 2007
Repatronage Desire to revisit a centre DeNisco and Warnaby, 2013
Urban functionality Parking spaces, accessibility, pedestrian street maintenance and ease of pedestrian movement DeNisco and Warnaby, 213
Image Overall perception of a centre, based on its attributes (e.g. ‘fashinable’, ‘functional’ etc.) Wong and Yu, 2001
Centre managers’ views Perceptions centre managers hold about their retail tenants, and their willingness to work collectively Predergast et al, 1996
Marketing Town centre effort in marketing Stubbs et al, 2002
Retail centre ranking Ranking retail centres in order, within the retail hierarchy. Reynolds and Schiller, 2007
Retail centre survival The longevity of a centre; in other words, to continue as a functioning centre. Rogers, 1987
Change Entry of new retail and non-retail businesses Dabinett, Gore, Haywood and Lawless, 1999
Retail configuration Structure of retail in different locations, e.g. central place, route centre, industrial town, tourist town Davies, 1972
Centre convenience The amount of time, effort and distance a visitor perceives they have to expend getting to and round a given centre Clulow and Reimers, 2009
Decline Loss of trade and investment Collis, Berkeley and Fletcher, 2000
Retail density Number of retail establishments in a given area Schuetz et al, 2012
Retail innovation Representation of new forms of retailing (e.g. click and collect) Gibbs, 1987
Retail investment Amount of money retailers and property developers invest in retail Hogg et al, 2004
Retail offer Retailer representation, large/small, specilaist/generalist, high service/no-frills Brown, 1987
Retail offer quality Consumers’ perceptions of merchadise quality in stores Whitehead et al, 2006
Retail operational efficiency How efficiently retailers can receive goods Pickering, 1981
Centre power How attracted consumers are to the centre. Clarke, 2000
Retail provision (meets needs of catchment) The health and vitality of a centre is based on its ability to meet the needs of the local catchment Bennison, Warnaby and Pal, 2010
Retail rental growth rates The rate and amount by which retail rents are growing Jackson, 2002
Retail rents The cost of renting retail space (usually by m2) You et al, 2003
Retail saturation The inability of the centre to sustain another outlet of a certain type Clarke, Bennison and Guy, 1994
Retailer diversity A mix of multiples and independents, range of goods, a strong anchor. Findlay and Sparks, 2009
Retailer representation Types of retailers in centre (goods/services, independents/multiples etc.) Wrigley and Dolega, 2011
Retailers’ localisation Adoption of place-based differentiation strategies (e.g. linking with the local community) Coca-Stefaniak, Parker and Rees, 2010
Retailers’ views Retailers perceptions of the performance of their store and its location Predergast et al, 1998
Safety and crime A centre KPI measuring perceptions or actual crime including shoplifting Jones, 1990; Hogg et al, 2004
Service quality* (authors’ interpretation) Space layout, functionality, store external appearance. DeNisco and Warnaby, 2013
Share of hedonic consumers Pleasure-seeking customers spend more money and visit more often. Teller et al, 2008
Shop in more outlets Includes linked trips. Teller, 2008
Shopper circulation patterns How people move around the centre,  pedestrian flows Brown, 1991
Shopping centre development (in-town) Proxy measure for performance. Confidence of investors in location. Evidence of town centres first policy. Reynolds, 1992
Centre similarity The degree to which a centre replicates the offer of another centre Davies, 2012
Shopping centres survival i.e. not being demolished for land value Demonstrates the degree to which existing retail properties can be ‘turned around’ Feldman, 2004
Small shop decline Number of small, independent shops exiting the centre Coca-Stefaniak et al, 2005
Split between comparison and convenience Larger centres have a higher amount of comparison. Smaller centres have higher amont of convenience Thorpe, 1968
Tenant mix Range of goods/services and range of fascias Teller and Elms, 2012
Total retail floorspace Amount of centre floorspace dedicated to retail (m2) Thorpe, 1968
Tourism views Tourists’ perceptions of a location Selby, 2004
Town centre experience Customers experience of a town centre, in terms of convenience, functionality and social interaction Hart et al, 2014
Town centre management Decision of town to use town centre management to coordinate resources and activity Pal and Sanders, 1997
Trust in  centre management Tenants feelings of trust in management (associated with longer lease renewals) Roberts et al, 2010
Market analysis Propensity of type of place management structure to undertake market analysis Kures and Ryan, 2012
Unit size Larger units are associated with larger centres. Proxy for centre power. Clarke, 2006
Vacancy rates Number of retail properties that are empty at any given time Wrigley and Dolega, 2011
Vitality and viability Vitality is reflected by the number of people present; viability refers to ability to attract investment and adapt to changing needs Schiller, 1994.
Vulnerability of retail offer How near the collective offer is near a ‘tipping point’ after which it cannot serve the catchment needs Schiller, 1994.

4 thoughts on “Improving High Street Performance: What are we trying to achieve?

  1. Reblogged this on Places. and commented:
    Professor Cathy Parker’s (Manchester Metropolitan University) research results on High Street performance. Very useful for anybody dealing with retail.

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