High street decline – what does the management and marketing literature suggest?

Whilst the drivers of change affecting high streets are complex and cross discipline boundaries, the management and marketing literature may offer some solutions. To simplify the literature, we have reviewed potential high street interventions under the broad categories of ‘repositioning’, ‘reinventing’, ‘rebranding’ and ‘restructuring’.

Repositioning is a strategy that can be used to counteract decline (Smith, 2004). Rapid economic, political, and social changes, are most likely to lead places to repositioning strategies that will allow them to identify potential competitive advantages (Kavaratzis and Ashworth, 2008). The focus of any interventions here should be on understanding the forces of change and the value of unique responses that reposition individual high streets, through building on distinct capabilities (such as local identity, Edensor, 1998) but are accommodative of future trends (such as an ageing population or the growth of m-commerce) and are therefore more resilient (Wrigley, and Dolega, 2011).

Reinventing should focus on elements of the place product within a framework of place marketing which suggests that any new developments should be guided by the marketing principle of meeting the needs/wants of identified target audiences (Ashworth and Voogd, 1990). The “reinventing” process of urban places can be built on activities that aim to revitalise a place’s identity and image; identity and image can be seen as both static (for communicative purposes in a fixed time) and dynamic, which recognises the uniqueness of each place and the difference in each stakeholder’s view about a place (Kalandides, 2011; Warnaby, 2011; Kavaratzis and Hatch, 2013). It is the latter view that can be used as a driver for reinventing places such as high streets and city centres; a framework built on these premises can unarguably assist the development of rejuvenated, competitive retailing spaces, which will merge innovation and local place identity, and will be meaningful for all stakeholders (Coca-Stefaniak, Parker, Quin, Rinaldi and Byrom, 2009). Retailing is an important element of the urban place product, and “reinventing” this sector along with improvements on complimentary elements of place can contribute to a better understanding of the formation of the “holistic” place product (Warnaby, Bennison and Davies, 2005).

Rebranding should focus on the communication of image and identity as previous studies demonstrate that place consumers may find that the place experience meets or exceeds expectations whilst the image of the place is ‘problematic’ (Selby, 2004). Rebranding a place is mainly concerned with the application of branding, marketing communications, and public relations techniques in order to deliver a consistent place identity, which can form a sum of beliefs, ideas, and impressions in the minds of potential consumers of a place (Kotler & Gertner, 2002). It can be thought of as the ‘organising principle’ for integrating measures (e.g. events, media relations, residents’ participation). Place branding can evoke favourable place images that transfer emotional and self-expression values, as well as utilitarian attributes to individuals (Caldwell & Freire, 2004). These images are part of a place’s secondary communication efforts (Kavaratzis, 2004), which consists of various slogans, advertisements, and PR campaigns which aim to assist a place’s actions towards development. Successful place brand management can lead to positive word-of-mouth, and also assist in the transformation of negative images (Hanna & Rowley, 2011; Skinner, 2011). The need to identify how potential stakeholders can co-create the place brand is the focus of recent developments in place branding (Warnaby, 2009; Hatch and Schultz, 2010). High streets, and particularly the retail sector, with the multitude of stakeholders involved in it (users, brokers, fixers) (Pal and Sanders, 1997), can highlight the desires, needs, and views of those stakeholders, which can lead to a better understanding of how place brands are created and evolve (Kavaratzis, 2009; Hanna & Rowley, 2011; Kavaratzis & Hatch, 2013).

Finally, restructuring, should focus on forms of management and governance, including formal and informal (Coca-Stefaniak et al, 2009; Peel, 2003); regulatory, functional, and contractual (Lloyd and Peel, 2008; Peel et al, 2009) and modes of communication / knowledge exchange (Peel and Lloyd, 2008a, b). Consequently, the major point of interest is how high streets can be restructured in order to facilitate all the changes mentioned above. Place management and retail management are recognised as interdependent areas, and practices that entail both commercial and locational benefits is the best way forward (Bennison, Warnaby and Pal, 2010). Restructuring and cooperation of all place stakeholders and creation of strategic networks and transparent public-private relationships can nurture conditions for the sustainable development of a place (van den Berg and Braun, 1999; Rainisto, 2003). Physical restructuring is also another area which is encapsulated in place management and place marketing strategies; the proper use of current infrastructure (temporal) and the development of new retail spaces are major antecedents of place attractiveness and place development (Pike, 2010; Teller and Elms, 2010). In the case of retailing, the best spaces created from restructuring can enliven the high street and also shape a better image for the place which can enhance retail operations (Pal and Byrom, 2003).

This review has been written by Cathy Parker, Nikolaos-Foivos Ntounis and Mihalis Kavartzis for an Economic and Social Research Council Knowledge Exchnage Project : High Street UK 2020. The full list of references is available upon request. Please contact c.parker@mmu.ac.uk

Personification of Place – RIP Drvar

drvar-4I was interested to hear about a funeral service for a town in western Bosnia-Hercegovina called Drvar. After the closure of the last employer in the town and with unemployment running at 80% the local people have held candle-light vigils and wrote obituaries for their town. According to the BBC, Drvar’s mayor, Stevica Lukac, “appeared at the mock funeral at the local Serbian Orthodox church but urged the crowd not to lose hope”. Many branding experts study the personification of brands – in other words how customers ascribe human personality characteristics to brands. This collective ‘mourning’ certainly demonstrates a strong sense of feeling and attachment to Drvar – and also how people see the negative consequences of job losses at a town level (rather than just what it means to them or their family). This collective involvement in such a symbolic act as a funeral for a town is, to my knowledge, the first of its kind. Maybe debating whether or not towns are brands is missing the point somewhat when they can achieve anthropomorphic status.

Special Issue of Journal of Place Management and Development

Volume 6 Issue 1 is now available on early cite. This is the Special Issue: The Business of Place: Critical, Practical and Pragmatic Perspective that contains selected papers from the 3rd International Place Branding and 2nd Institute of Place Management Conference which is taking place 13th and 14th Feb. Congratulations to all our authors.

My Place is not Your Place – Different Place Brand Knowledge by Different Target Groups by Sebastian Zenker and Suzanne C. Beckmann

My City – My Brand: The Different Roles of Residents in Place Branding by Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, and Sebastian Zenker

A Study on the Delivery of City Branding Advertisements in China: City Branding Advertisement on CCTV, 2007-2010 by Chunying Wen

Developing a Collective Capacity for Place Management by Tore Omholt

Slum Tourism, City Branding, and Social Urbanism: The Case of Medellin, Colombia by Jaime Hernandez-Garcia

The Tools for City Centre Revitalization in Portugal by Pedro Porfírio Coutinho Guimarães

Volume 5 Issue 3 of the Journal of Place Management and Development now out

The most recent issue of the JPMD is now out.  This means we have 5 years of Volumes now, so thank you very much to all our authors, reviewers, Editorial Board members and Editors. This issue contains the following articles:

Branding slums: a community-driven strategy for urban inclusion in Rio de Janeiro by I Torres, Government of Federal District, Brazil

Place marketing and phases of the image : a conceptual framework by S M Zavattaro, University of Texas at Brownsville, USA

Towards a theory of place marketing by T Niedomysl (Lund University) and M Jonasson (Halmstad University), Sweden

Unraveling the complexity of ‘city brand equity’: a three dimensional framework by A Lucarelli, Stockholm University, Sweden

Place brand equity: a model for establishing the effectiveness of place brands by B P Jacobsen, University of Dundee, UK

“We love the Gong” : a marketing perspective by G Kerr (University of Wollongong) , K Dombkins (Tourism Wollongong)and S Jelley (University of Wollongong), Australia

Members of the IPM can access the JPMD as part of their membership package.  If you would like to join the IPM then please contact me at c.parker@mmu.ac.uk

Keynote Speech : Rob Hopkins and “the biggest urban brainwave of the century”

ImageWe are delighted to confirm Dr Rob Hopkins, co-founder of the Transition Network and Transition Town Totnes as a Keynote Speaker at the 3rd International Place Branding and 2nd Institute of Place Management Conference.

Rob Hopkins brings humour, imagination and vision to the great challenges of our time, and argues that what is needed, above all else, at this time in history, is “engaged optimism”.  The rapidly-spreading Transition movement which he was pivotal in establishing, is an embodiment of that.  Nicholas Crane, presenter of BBC2’s recent ‘Town’ series, recently referred to Transition as “the biggest urban brainwave of the century”.  Rob’s experience with community-led approaches to strategic place management and branding will be an inspiring addition to the conference.

Rob is the author of the newly-published “The Transition Companion: making your community more resilient in uncertain times”, and previously wrote the best-selling ‘Transition Handbook’.   He was the winner of the 2008 Schumacher Award, is an Ashoka Fellow and a Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute, served 3 years as a Trustee of the Soil Association, and was named by the Independent as one of the UK’s top 100 environmentalists.  He is the winner of the 2009 Observer Ethical Award for the Grassroots Campaigner category, and in December 2009 was voted the Energy Saving Trust/Guardian’s ‘Green Community Hero’.  In February 2012, Rob and the Transition Network were among NESTA and The Observer’s list of ‘Britain’s 50 New Radicals’.

He blogs at transitionculture.org, tweets as robintransition, speaks widely on Transition and peak oil, holds an MSc in Social Research and recently completed a PhD at the University of Plymouth entitled ‘Localisation and resilience at the local level: the case of Transition Town Totnes’.   He recently became a Visiting Fellow at the University of Plymouth  and lives in Devon where he raises both children and various vegetables.

Sound of the city

Following from this week’s foray into smell and the city in Manchester, another city has been exploring a different sense, sound and the city.

David Byrne (Talking Heads) has been living in a temporary architectural installation (a sort of boat) perched on top of the South Bank Centre.
During his time in London he has been out and about collecting sounds.

Markets, overhead trains, bigots – they all feature, and all go into the overall sound collage which has enabled him to estimate the tempo of London (at 122.86 beats per minutes).

The positivists amongst you will be rolling your eyes (rather than dice) at this figure and the unscientific method behind its calculation. The sounds all came from around the Southbank. Would Piccadilly Circus have the same rhythm? And when did he collect the sounds? Cities have a type of circadian rhythm, representing their 24 cycle. Is 122.86 beats per minute the mean, if so what’s the standard deviation?

But viewed as a piece of qualitative research then those criticisms are irrelevant. The research explores something we don’t usually think about; the rhythm of place. It opens up this topic for further investigation. It helps us frame future research. The beat of London versus Buenos Aires, for example. Or even the relationship between the speed of a place’s ‘heartbeat’ and human heartbeats.

You can see a video of David Byrne’s work here


Journal of Place Management and Development – Top 10 Articles

We have just had our download figures for the Journal of Place Management and Development for last year (2011).  Here are the 10 most downloaded articles with the download figures.  Congratulations to the authors!

Vishwas Maheshwari, Ian Vandewalle, David Bamber (2011), Place branding’s role in sustainable development, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 198-213. (634 downloads).

Sebastian Zenker (2011), How to catch a city? The concept and measurement of place brands, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp 40-52. (622 downloads).

Melodena Stephens Balakrishnan (2008), Dubai – a star in the east: A case study in strategic destination branding, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp 62-91. (611 downloads)

Andrea Lucarelli, Per Olof Berg (2011), City branding: a state-of-the-art review of the research domain, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp 9-27. (601 downloads)

Helena Maria Baptista Alves, Ana María Campón Cerro, Ana Vanessa Ferreira Martins (2010), Impacts of small tourism events on rural places, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp 22-37. (479 downloads)

Leonard A. Jackson (2008), Residents’ perceptions of the impacts of special event tourism, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp 240-255. (326 downloads)

Mihalis Kavaratzis, Gregory Ashworth (2008), Place marketing: how did we get here and where are we going?, Vol. 1, No. 2, pp 150-165. (325 downloads)

Ares Kalandides (2011), The problem with spatial identity: revisiting the “sense of place”, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp 28-39. (297 downloads)

Gert-Jan Hospers (2010), Making sense of place: from cold to warm city marketing, Vol. 3, No. 3, pp 182-193. (253 downloads)

E.J. Cilliers, E. Diemont, D.J. Stobbelaar, W. Timmermans (2010), Sustainable green urban planning: the Green Credit Tool, Vol. 3, No. 1, pp 57-66. (226 downloads).


Our download figures for 2011 were just under 12,000.  That’s 4,000 more than last year.   All members of the Institute of Place Management can access the JPMD.