High Streets and their ability to change

As part of our High Street UK 2020 project we have asked our town partners to identify factors that influence the success of their retail centres, which they want to understand more about. Over the next few days we will discuss these factors.

We start with……….the ability to change.

“Many large retailers in Britain have been highly adaptive to regulatory change, able to alter scale, format, location, and branding” (Hall, 2011).

There is a lot in the literature about how adaptive retailers are to change, but less about how town centres etc. adapt to change. Whilst the symptoms of change may be studied (e.g. vacancy rates), the causes of change are less understood. “While rents represent demand and supply forces, they do not explain underlying economic fundamentals driving change” (Goetzmann & Wachter,1995).

This suggests adapting to change is difficult for towns if there is poor understanding of the factors causing change. Our research has identified over 200 factors which influence the vitality and viability of retail centres, so we know it is a very complicated area. Nevertheless, this doesn’t mean that a difficult problem should just be ignored.

One the outcomes of the High Street UK2020 project is a model that allows towns to understand what impacts most on their retail areas and what factors they can realistically influence.

As a rule of thumb the more influence a factor has on the town, the less they can do about it. Whilst that might seem a bit defeatist – our model will allow places to prioritise their very scarce resources – so their activities and interventions do result in actual change. In other words, they don’t waste time, money and effort trying to change things they can’t – like the popularity of internet shopping.

We will be launching our findings at a free half-day conference in Manchester on 10th July 2014. Please email me if you want to reserve a place before tickets are made available on Monday 9th June. c.parker@mmu.ac.uk

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