Working together for stronger towns

On the 4th July 2016 I was invited to take part in the inaugural Oxfordshire High Streets Conference.  I  am saying inaugural as the delegates found the day very useful so we hope there will be another one! As a place management scholar, there is nothing better than sharing place insight and debating its relevance, in a local context. As a researcher, I get to know a lot about problems and I get to know my data intimately.   But, my work tends to be read by academics and other people who also focus on the data/problem side of things.  This means I don’t always connect with the people who want to put our research findings into practice.  To get the opportunity to present our research on footfall signatures at the event was especially rewarding.  Having the chance to hear directly from representatives of towns that feel their centre’s profile is changing from one of comparison shopping to one that is more focused on community retail and services, for example, was really useful.  I got a chance to take part in the important debate about what this change means ‘on the ground’, in terms of managing the offer, attracting the right type of businesses, changing opening hours and communicating all these changes in the community.

As the Keynote Speaker for the event I was also invited to give a couple of radio and TV interviews.  One of these was for Howard Bentham’s Radio Oxford Breakfast Show. His questions were typical of what people want to know about High Streets. Namely, how much research is there telling us what works on the high street? Are there answers or is everyone making it up as they go along?  What are the main factors that determine whether a high street is successful or not? Will the Internet kill the high street?  And, finally, what would I do if I was in charge of a town (I am not used to getting this last question!). I use the rest of this blog to give some answers to these questions.

How much research has been done into what works on the high street?

A lot. Our High Street UK 2020 project, funded by the ESRC, found relevant articles and commentary dating back to 1892. Academic researchers have been predicting many of the problems we are currently facing today – as long ago as the 1960s. Despite there being a lot of useful information, it’s taken more popular figures like Mary Portas and Bill Grimsey to bring these findings to people concerned about the high street. What seems to happen is that technology changes, consumer behaviour changes but there is too long a time lag before town centre stakeholders (e.g. property owners, the council, retailers) adapt their decision making/operations in response to these major changes. We need our town centre decision makers to take a bit more notice of the research and predictions our academics and other experts make, so they can anticipate change and respond more effectively, rather than just wait until everything goes a bit ‘pear shaped’!

What have been the consequences of town leaders making decisions without evidence of what works?

Wasted funding, wasted effort and declining high streets. But it’s not just town leaders – its also decision makers at higher levels.  For example, retail planning policy is a national issue.  Our research has shown that the impact of out-of-town shopping is more negative than internet shopping on traditional retail areas like high streets. But, in England our town centre first policy has been gradually eroded – allowing more edge and out-of-town retailing to be built, whereas in Scotland they are very protective of their high streets – and are doing everything they can to ensure retailing and other services are in town centres.

What are the main factors that determine a high street’s success?

Number 1 is the range of shops, services and other attractions it offers – and whether these match and adapt to the needs of the people using the high street.  Attractions are not just shops.  Parks, leisure activities, schools and hospitals, public transport hubs and employers all attract footfall. The question is – how integrated are all these attractors into an overall town centre experience? For example, do business open later to cater for large numbers of commuters, ‘attracted’ to railway stations.

Number 2 is the accessibility of the high street – using a range of transport options – public transport, walking, cars or cycles etc. High streets can be forced into unnecessary decline by moving bus stations and stops, for example. And that’s why we hear so much about car-parking. But, as a rule of thumb the weaker the town’s offer (see above) the cheaper the car-parking needs to be. Strong towns do not need to worry about the price of car-parking!

Number 3 is competition to the high street from edge-of-town or out-of-town retailing.  Retail parks are seeing a rise in footfall – because they are not just a collection of retail sheds anymore, they have restaurants, gyms, cinemas – and free parking. In effect, they are becoming more convenient (for car-owners) replacements to the traditional high street.

Is the internet killing the high street?

No, the Internet is not killing the high street, but it is transforming it.  The Internet is speeding up the reinvention of the high street into something more suitable for today’s consumers.   Bodies like the Royal Town Planning Institute think that the UK has an oversupply of retail floor space – perhaps as high as 30%.  Now people are buying bulky physical products online, our town centres do not need to be full of fridges, freezers, mattresses, TVs and sofas etc., which take up a lot of room! This space can now be used for other uses.  As a result, many smaller town centres need to become more compact.  The retail and service offer needs to be concentrated – and town centre decision makers need to facilitate this to make it happen.  A town with a fragmented offer is not convenient as it is not easily walkable.

If you were put in charge of an average English town, what would be your first priority?

Run to the hills! After all my time researching town and city centre change I know place management is not an easy job! Towns are full of lots of different types of people, shopkeepers, independents, multiples, residents, civic societies trying to protect history and heritage, transport planners trying to facilitate cycle paths, motorists wanting to park outside shops.  All these people have got competing expectations and requirements. So, the first priority should be establishing a realistic and shared vision of what the town centre offer needs to be – to meet the needs of the people that use it.  Our recent High Street UK 2020 project has shown that the sort of research work that is needed to reposition the town, so it meets the needs of its current catchment, is sorely lacking in the average English town.

Finally, I have put together a Storify from the tweets that were shared during the Oxfordshire High Streets Conference.  It really was a great event and I look forward to the next one. You can find out more about the event below.

IPM Study Tour to Berlin June 2016 – Place Management in Action

From the 2nd to the 4th June IPM ran a 3-day accredited educational trip to Berlin to learn more about place management in the city.  The tour was a combination of site visits, lectures & workshops as well as meetings with local place managers (local partnerships, markets, town centre management, local initiatives, local tourism etc.).

The Study Tour was hosted by Dr Ares Kalandides, Professor Cathy Parker and Simon Quin, from the IPM at Manchester Metropolitan University. It took place in cooperation with New York University, Berlin (NYU Berlin).

Below is a short reflection on the three days, compiled from the tweets and photographs taken during the tour.

Journal rankings – do we care?

Last month the latest version of the Journal Citation Report (JCR) was released by Thomson Reuters. This publication is viewed as the ‘industry standard’ in terms of establishing a publication’s impact. The report does this by calculating a variety of metrics which stem from the number of citations an article in any given publication achieves.

With over 11,000 journals now publishing peer-reviewed research, it is not surprising that individual researchers and their employing institutions find the sort of statistics and rankings contained in the JCR helpful.

Researchers want their work to make a contribution to knowledge, so the average number of citations per article for a journal is a useful way of seeing if previous research published in that journal has a higher (or lower) citation rate. The more people that cite articles – the more those articles are likely to be influencing the development of theory or knowledge in an area.

Likewise, universities want to know that they are investing in influential research (and researchers), in terms of funding activity and promoting their best academic staff.

But what about journal editors like us? What do all these metrics and the rankings mean to the Journal of Place Management and Development?

Well firstly, as a relative new journal (published since 2008) we are not currently reviewed by Thomson Reuters. Therefore we do not appear in the JCR. Game over? Well, not quite. As we have already said, rankings and listings are a popular and simple way by which a journal’s impact is judged. Therefore, if we want to attract authors, reviewers and Editorial Board Members we need to give some indication as to how well JPMD performs.

Despite not being included on the Thompson Reuters JCR list, it is still possible to compare the citations of JPMD articles, using other, publicly accessible sources, such as The SCImago Journal & Country Rank. This uses information from the Scopus® database (Elsevier B.V.), which does include the Journal of Place Management and Development.

This year, our cites per document over a 2 year period (which is calculated in the same way as the Thomson Reuters journal impact factor) is 1.45 which puts JPMD in the top quartile of journals in Urban Studies (12th), Business & International Management (51st) and Geography, Planning & Development (80th). And it means we are also above ‘average’ in Strategy & Management, Tourism, Leisure & Hospitality Management, and Marketing too.

So what does this mean? Well, we are fairly specialist and have not published that many articles. Therefore, there is a fairly ‘tight’ community around the JPMD, which makes it more likely that the authors that publish in it are building on each other’s work. However, as a group we must be careful that we do not ‘game’ and skew the results – by, for example, only citing authors that also publish in JPMD or, even worse, self-cite too often. All of this gets monitored and could result in the JPMD being blacklisted in future rankings and listings.

The ease by which the 2 year citation average (Impact Factor) can be manipulated is probably why it is frequently criticised. Nevertheless, other metrics, such as the SJR indicator go one step further to measure the “scientific influence of the average article in a journal” and express how central to the global scientific discussion an average article of the journal is. This metric also includes where the citations are to be found, as well as how many are counted. Therefore, SJR includes both a measure of quality and quantity. The results using the SJR indicator for the JPMD are the same as for the 2 year citation average, which means we are also performing well in terms of our articles being cited in higher quality / more established journals.

So, whilst there are different ways of measuring, listing and ranking, we do care how well JPMD does as it shows how relevant the research we publish is to other academics. However, it is the individual articles that, collectively, make up the journal’s position, so the only way to improve our standing is to attract the best quality research and provide an excellent service to our authors. In our first Editorial of 2016 (Volume 9, Issue 1) we will explain how we intend to do this. But, as always, we are very open to your ideas and suggestions.

Cathy Parker and Dominic Medway

Note : If you are interested, and want to make comparisons with other journals, you can see the JPMD’s performance in the SCImago Journal & Country Rank for yourself here.

Journal of Place Management and Development Awards for Excellence: Who won and why

Yesterday, Emerald Group Publishing, publishers of our Journal of Place Management and Development, (JPMD) announced the 2015 awards for excellence across the whole of their journal portfolio.

First of all, on behalf of the Editorial Board and Team, I would like to congratulate our JPMD winners listed below. It is not easy to be chosen for one of these awards. As many of our articles have high download figures and citations, we also take into account other factors, especially the contribution of a paper to the aims and objectives of the journal, when we are judging. Likewise, as we are lucky to have such a wonderful body of knowledgeable and reliable reviewers, we have to look for other outstanding qualities, to recognise our award-winning reviewers.

So, here are the JPMD, 2015 Outstanding Authors and Reviewers along with a short commentary from me explaining why they were chosen.

Outstanding Paper

The award of Outstanding Paper 2015 goes to Staci M. Zavattaro, for “Re-imagining the sustainability narrative in US cities“, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7 Iss: 3, pp.189 – 205.

Staci takes a critical look at how US cities are communicating about sustainability, through reviewing content on their websites. The findings suggest rather a myopic (environmentally-focused) view of sustainability is often portrayed, ignoring social and economic goals. However, of more concern, is the place marketing activity analysed. This promotes ‘sustainability as consumption’ which Staci notes is unsustainable. As well as these findings, there are four other reasons which, together, we feel makes this paper outstanding.

First, the paper is interdisciplinary – combining theory and methods from political science, public administration, marketing, management and tourism. The literature reviewed is rich enough to fully analyse the research problem identified, in this case the ‘gap’ between the long-term aim of sustainability for the planet and the current communication practices of specific cities.

The research problem also deserves special mention, as the second reason this paper was enjoyed by the judges. It is a ‘real-word’ problem, affecting most places. It is not merely an academic endeavour, so ultimately the findings can be adopted/adapted/interpreted by place managers to make better, more sustainable, places.

Third, the method was appropriate and ‘scientific’ in its application. As a piece of qualitative research it was clear what content had been chosen to analyse and how it was analysed.

Finally, Staci has identified recommendations for practitioners – as part of the overall methodology adopted (in other words, these are not just an afterthought – but their development is an intrinsic part of the study). As the official journal of the Institute of Place Management, where the great majority of our members are practitioners, there is an expectation that articles in the journal will be useful outside of academic circles, and can have genuine impact. It is not much help to a busy, and usually under-resourced, place manager to read ‘critical reviews’ which only identify the faults and flaws in current practice and do not offer solutions or recommendations to improve the status quo.

Highly Commended Paper

The award of Highly Commended Paper 2015 goes to Salman Yousaf and Li Huaibin, for “Branding Pakistan as a “Sufi” country: the role of religion in developing a nation’s brand”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7 Iss: 1, pp.90 – 104.

Salman and Li present a very different type of paper. It is almost a ‘worked example’ of a specific policy recommendation – to associate Pakistan with the many positive aspects of the Sufi religion – in contrast to the existing, widely-held, negative perceptions of the country. As a journal that seeks to publish research of international importance, this article has the potential to make a real difference to a whole nation, if the recommendations are adopted by policy makers. The passion and conviction with which the authors write is also unusual in journal articles. But perhaps not in the Journal of Place Management and Development, where ‘place’ and ‘people’ are valued as an intrinsic part of the research inquiry.

Outstanding Reviewers

The awards for Outstanding Reviewers 2015 go to Javier Lloveras and
Eduardo Oliveira, for similar reasons. Both Javier and Eduardo have recently completed their PhDs. However, when they were both in their final year, preoccupied with the stresses and strains that come with the fast-approaching deadline of ‘hand-in’, they both found time to review for JPMD. Despite being new to the process, their responses were extremely detailed, offering lots of guidance and advice for the authors if aspects needed to be improved or, if they felt the paper was not good enough, very specific feedback explaining their decisions. It is really good to see academics at the start of their career share their skills and knowledge of their subject areas so willingly.

Congratulations Staci, Salman, Li, Javier and Eduardo! Our outstanding class of 2015.


The Outstanding Paper is available to download, free of charge, until 1st June 2016. Staci M. Zavattaro, “Re-imagining the sustainability narrative in US cities“, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7 Iss: 3, pp.189 – 205.

The Highly Commended Paper is available to download, free of charge, from 1st to 31st July 2015. Salman Yousaf and Li Huaibin, “Branding Pakistan as a “Sufi” country: the role of religion in developing a nation’s brand“, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7 Iss: 1, pp.90 – 104.


Improving high street performance by communication

As part of a town or city’s marketing communications, communication strategies need to highlight retail change and need to encourage customers to change their shopping habits in a way that will sustain such change (Kirkup & Rafiq, 1999; Warnaby, Bennison, & Davies, 2005).

A good example of this is communicating changes in opening hours. For example, late night opening initiatives can fail if shoppers are unaware of the extended opening times.

Whilst place promotion and communication strategies to shoppers are, on the whole, improving; communication between traders on the High Street is very poor. A study we undertook in 2005 showed that only 40% of
SME traders were in any sort of network to receive information about their sector or location.

There is more commentary about communication contained in our blogs on collaboration, engagement and networks.


Kirkup, M. H., & Rafiq, M. (1999). Marketing shopping centres: challenges in the UK context. Journal of Marketing Practice: Applied Marketing Science, 5(5), 119–133.


Warnaby, G., Bennison, D., & Davies, B. J. (2005). Marketing communications in planned shopping centres: evidence from the UK. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33(12), 893–904.


Journal of Place Management Development grows by 33%

The following blog summarises the JPMD’s usage.

There have been 33% more article downloads this year compared with this time last year.

In 2013 we had 16,835 downloads.  There are over 1,500 institutional subscriptions to the JPMD worlwide.


largecover   Click here to access the Journal of Place Management and Development

Special Issues:
The following table shows the top 5 most popular special issues by articles downloaded during the last 12 months:

3rd Place Branding Conference (5, 1)  2012 1,969 downloads
2nd Place Branding Conference (4, 1) 2011 1,683 downloads
Marketing cities: place branding in perspective (2, 1) 2009 1,326 downloads
Place management: collecting definitions and perspectives (1, 1) 2008 1,277 downloads 

Call for papers : Place Management and Branding Conference. Sustainability, liveability and connectivity. 6-8th May 20145. Poznan Poland.

Top Institutions:
The following institutions have downloaded the most articles from JPMD during the last 12 months.

Universiti Teknologi MARA
University of Strathclyde
University of Greenwich
SEGi University
Manchester Metropolitan University
University of Cape Coast
University of Tehran
Universiti Utara Malaysia
NHTV Internationaal Hoger Onderwijs Breda
Erasmus University Rotterdam


Top Countries:
The following countries have downloaded the most articles from JPMD during the last 12 months.

United Kingdom
South Africa


Top Articles:
The following articles published in 2014 have been downloaded the most during the last 12 months:

Salman Yousaf, Li Huaibin (2014), “Branding Pakistan as a “Sufi” country: the role of religion in developing a nation’s brand”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 90-104 177
Cathy Parker (2014), “Foreword”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1 124
Earl Bailey (2014), “Redefining comprehensive urban management, in the Kingston Metropolitan Region, Jamaica”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 27-56 96
William Wee Lim Hew, David Yoon Kin Tong, Gerald Guan Gan Goh (2014), “Revitalisation of the Old Township of Ipoh, Malaysia”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 57-73 52
Andrea Ciaramella, Valentina Puglisi, Tommaso Truppi (2014), “Environmental performance assessment for urban districts”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 74-89 44
Joseph Akinlabi Fadamiro, Adeniran Joseph Adedeji (2014), “Recreational experiences in parks and gardens, Ibadan, Nigeria”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 1, pp 5-26 36
Stella Kladou, Antonios A. Giannopoulos, Ioannis Assiouras (2014), “Matching tourism type and destination image perceptions in a country context”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 7, No. 2, pp
141-152 23


The following articles published in any year have been downloaded the most during the last 12 months:

Erik Braun, Mihalis Kavaratzis, Sebastian Zenker (2013), “My city – my brand: the different roles of residents in place branding”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 6, No. 1, pp 18-28 1,140
Mihalis Kavaratzis (2012), “From “necessary evil” to necessity: stakeholders’ involvement in place branding”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 5, No. 1, pp 7-19 1,026
Efe Sevin (2013), “Places going viral: Twitter usage patterns in destination marketing and place branding”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp 227-239 893
Melodena Stephens Balakrishnan (2008), “Dubai – a star in the east: A case study in strategic destination branding”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 1, No. 1, pp 62-91 762
Andrea Lucarelli, Per Olof Berg (2011), “City branding: a state-of-the-art review of the research domain”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp 9-27 651
Emma Björner (2013), “International positioning through online city branding: the case of Chengdu”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 6, No. 3, pp 203-226 492
Sebastian Zenker (2011), “How to catch a city? The concept and measurement of place brands”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 4, No. 1, pp 40-52 470
Leonard A. Jackson (2008), “Residents’ perceptions of the impacts of special event tourism”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 1, No. 3, pp 240-255 463
Andrea Insch, Benjamin Sun (2013), “University students’ needs and satisfaction with their host city”, Journal of Place Management, Vol 6, No 3, pp 178-191 445
Vishwas Maheshwari, Ian Vandewalle, David Bamber (2011), “Place branding’s role in sustainable development”, Journal of Place Management and Development, Vol. 4, No. 2, pp 198-213 368

Place marketing and sustainable places

Recently, Piccadilly Gardens was voted Manchester’s worst attraction on Tripadvisor. The designers of Piccadilly Gardens, Arup, say “Piccadilly Gardens transforms Manchester’s central park from a problem area into an effective public space”. On the other hand tripadvisors say “Designed by numpties. Dirty, rotten, awful area. Avoid at all costs. Shameful display and use of civic area.”

Piccadilly Gardens is a ‘great’ example to use to illustrate the complexities inherent in place marketing and how the practice must change if it wants to be relevant in the context of sustainable places. In the last couple of months I have been asked to speak about the topic of place marketing and sustainability at three international tourism conferences. Most recently, this was at the 1st Corfu Symposium on Managing and Marketing Places.

What visitors (and many locals) don’t like about Piccadilly Gardens is the rubbish. Traditionally the role of place marketing has been to attract mobile investment, like tourists or to boost economic activity, such as ‘the evening economy’.

Place marketing activity is designed to draw additional inputs into the system – but with little or no regard for the unwanted outputs created, like litter. If visitors and residents are seeing something as simple as rubbish build up – then that’s saying the system isn’t working. Worse than that – our most recent research demonstrates, unequivocally, that rubbish is impacting on peoples’ place attitudes and increasing their anticipation of witnessing other sorts of incivilities – such as harassment, drug-dealing and public drunkenness. This then makes them wary of the very space that is supposed to be attracting them, illustrating how more interconnected place marketing activity needs to be with other aspects of place management. Is the place marketing budget better spent on more place promotion or more tidying up?

We can tip-toe around the eggshells here – but being blunt – a lot of place marketing activity conflicts with the philosophy of a sustainable place. Place marketing based on the mantra of place competition is always about attracting resources away from somewhere else. Meaning there is winners and losers. Sustainability is about everyone surviving.

Place marketing’s obsession with drawing resources from the ‘outside in’ (inward investment) means, at the moment, it does not have much to offer those trying to create more sustainable forms of development, from within. The empty shops on the UK High Street and the empty hotel rooms in Corfu show how destructive global systems can be on specific places. International property developers, retail chains and tour operators all see location as a key part of their business strategy – but have no loyalty or attachment to any one particular place.

Gold and Ward (1994) stated that “Public or quasi-public policy should embody notions of public good and social benefits, but not promote one place at the expense of another” so to be relevant in the future, place marketers should take heed of this advice (better late than never).

Marketing has evolved from the transactional, one-dimensional activity it once was. It has become more strategic, theories such as the service profit chain, demonstrate the value of service companies investing in their staff, as employee satisfaction is a driver of customer satisfaction. Relationship marketing proves the value of keeping customers rather than attracting new ones. The trouble is these developments in marketing theory don’t reach many of the people practicing place marketing.

The opportunity for place marketing is to shift its focus to endogenous development. Recently, Cambridge was identified as the best city to find a job with 0.22 jobseekers per vacancy. 100 less than in Salford. Whilst Cambridge University competes on a world-stage to attract talent…..that talent often stays. Local firms are supported – there is an home-grown innovation supply chain. Successful companies say you are only two phone calls away from what you need.

If we accept sustainability is a legitimate (perhaps the ultimate goal of a place), then place marketing has an important role in communicating this vision and helping to glue everything together. If it continues to just promote and ‘sell’ places, then it becomes just another destructive force, taking much needed public funding away from building a more sustainable future for our towns and cities.