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.

Portas Pilots – One Year On

There’s been a lot in the news this week about the Portas Pilots – so here is a round up and my view on some of the key issues that have been discussed.

Why have the Portas towns got high retail vacancy rates?

There are some forces of change that work on a national or even international level, affecting all town centres, such as the recession – people have less money to spend and e-commerce – more of people’s spend takes place on-line.

Then there are factors that impact on individual town centres, such as the size of the catchment – whether more or less people are living in the area, how many people work in the town centre, the retail and service offer, for example comparison or non-food retailing has suffered the most in the recession, food and service business have done better.

Other factors include its location (northern towns have higher vacancy rates than those in the south), size (small centres are more resilient than large) and their accessibility or the ease with which people can travel to other competing centres.

In the case of the Portas towns, what is more important is the long term vacancy rate. For example, pre-recession Stockport’s vacancy rate was 12.7% compared to a national average of 10.3% A long-term vacancy rate higher than the national average indicates a long-term problem, and in most cases, an over supply of retail floorspace.

Whilst the Town Teams can get behind the existing retail, this is difficult if it is spread all over town. A strategic approach to concentrating retail into the right-sized centre is also necessary.

Have the Portas Pilots got high churn rates?

In a word – no. You could not pick out a Portas Pilot accurately on the basis of the number of shops opening and closing in its centre. Croydon has the highest churn rate – but then it probably had the highest concentration of multiple retailers, and due to the amount that closed last year (HMV, Comet, Clinton Cards, JJB Sports, Blockbuster, and Thomas Cook etc.) it’s not surprising they have more of their share of 4,000 empty shops to fill.

As Croydon is in the more affluent south, then retailers are likely to be more attracted to relocate there, rather than Nelson in the poorer North.

Churn rates are higher everywhere.
There has been a dramatic fall in the length of leases on commercial properties over the past five years. Before the recession, the average length of a high street lease was 10 years. There’s no doubt the economic climate has meant property owners have had to offer more flexible lease arrangements –a third of high street leases are now less than 5 years.

So, retailers can relocate to more profitable locations – areas with higher footfall – or larger, more efficient retail space, more easily. In other words they are not so ‘trapped’ in locations, which previously kept the churn rate down.

Also, with shorter term and pop-up leases, rent and rate relief, more independent retailers are being attracted into premises that would not have been feasible for them before. However, like other small business, their failure rate is high. A small shop has about a 40% chance of being in business 5 years after opening.

In a survey we did of 600 small retailers in the UK less than a quarter had a business plan, many of them had no previous retail experience and did not invest in training. We found a significant relationship with having a business plan the number of years the shop was in business and turnover.

Without a business plan and some grounding in retaiing, new entrants may be making the wrong location decisions – based upon supply side factor considerations like the price of the unit, rather than whether there is real market demand for their offer and whether the shop is in a location that attracts enough footfall.

How can the Town Teams increase footfall?

In the short term – by making the most of the space and the assets they have. Markets, vintage fairs, festivals, promoting existing retailers through guides, websites etc. Free or cheap parking on its own will not encourage people to the centre if what they want isn’t there, if there is nothing to attract them, if they can’t find it – or the town is dirty or feels unsafe.

But longer term, towns need to have an offer that meets the needs of their users. Retail and consumer data should be used to undertake an analysis of the retail area and work out what is missing and what sort of businesses would do well. Small in-town or edge-of-town supermarkets are associated with lower vacancy rates. Towns should actively encourage certain types of retailer – by going to other locations and seeing what is missing and who they could attract. If a town doesn’t want a supermarket then it should consider options like a local food market.

Towns will need to accept that retail floorspace has to shrink by between 20-40% and should help surviving retail outlets concentrate in the same part of town. This is the strategic stuff that needs some vision and leadership. Towns should be thinking about what the other space can be used for, in terms of uses that will bring more people into the town centre; offices, education, sheltered housing… in the next 10 years over 12.4 million people will be over 64 so more people will need live near to locally accessibly shops and services as they may not be mobile enough to travel to shop or visit their GP.

How can the towns improve their image?

There’s been a lot of investment by towns and cities into rebranding. But behind every good brand you have to have a good product, so there’s no shortcut to the investment and effort needed in terms of getting the place product right.

However, place perceptions can offer lag behind reality – and if a town has a poor image it can take a long time to change that. Place ‘ambassadors’ should be engaged; these could be the local press or key stakeholders like local retailers, for example. Basically, people that can and are willing to ‘talk-up’ the town.

A rebranding exercise can be useful, if it is thought of as the ‘organising principle’ for integrating measures (e.g. events, media relations, residents’ participation). But it needs to capture the place’s distinctiveness and shouldn’t just be a trite slogan – like “open for business”. What town wouldn’t be open for business?

What’s all this about the night-time economy?

Reports by the Local Government Association show that the public and council offers are concerned about the proliferation of sex shops, betting shops and food take away outlets. But if a property is empty landlords will want to fill it. The problem is the landlord is very unlikely to live in the town that seemingly becomes plagued with late-night bars and take-aways etc.

Councils can stop operators by using licensing restrictions, but they may well be challenged – and this is expensive at a time when they have no cash. Splitting the economy into day and night isn’t very helpful. The economy should be seen as a whole – if a late-night takeaway causes a litter problem that puts people off using the town in the day then the net effect on the economy may be negative.

What sort of retailers are doing well?

Well it is not all doom and gloom on the high street. Primark has seen its sales shoot up 24% in the last 6 months (to March 2013). Unlike other retailers, it is not going on-line as it is concentrating on growth in its existing market and profitability from improving retail operational efficiency. So, for example, it is expanding the sales floor area in shops so it can sell even more.

Even though there is a decline in comparison retail (electricals, toys etc.) Argos has seen its sales grow by 3% because of its successful click and collect service. Whilst consumers like the convenience of shopping on-line, the delivery aspect can be very inconvenient – so the ability to order something and know you can pick it up is very compelling. Likewise, John Lewis and Waitrose have seen big growth in click and collect sales.

And lastly, footfall in towns that participated in last years ‘Love your Local Market’ increased by 4% (against a backdrop of 6% decline). There is a growth of the Totally Locally movement, and after the horsemeat and other scandals, more people want to know where their food comes from, and smaller food retail businesses can offer this more personal connection with the supply chain and this reassurance.

So, one year on – the same questions are being asked and answered – this is worrying as we need to move on to real action if we want to support our towns and high streets to change so they have a sustainable role in the future.

Transport decision making and representative bureaucracy

A friend of mine at university had his own plane (!) and flew to Teesside airport for the start of term in 1992. This was on a Wednesday. He was told he would have to wait till Sunday to get a train. Incidentally, the bus takes over an hour for the 12 mile journey (longer than it took him to fly from the south). Despite people trying for many years to get a rail service to the airport in my opinion the main problem they faced is that they were talking to car owners. Since the 1970s the concept of representative bureaucracy has been widely embraced in the public services. Just like representative democracy should reflect the interests and diversity of the electorate, organisations that serve society will be better placed to do so if their employees represent all the segments of the population they serve (Evans, 1974). But representative bureaucracy, has been driven more by legislation than a genuine belief that it will improve policy making and service delivery. it has focused almost entirely on trying to ensure workforces are reflective of ethnicity, disability and gender. But, what about people that don’t own cars? How well are they represented? To have a station at an airport and four trains an hour that pass through it seems a great example of integrated transport – unfortunately none of the trains stop. The original reason for not allowing passengers to alight was the 15 minute walk from the station to the airport. It’s about a 15 minute walk from Manchester airport station to the airport. Have a shuttle taxi. Next time I get involved in any consultations or discussions about transport I am going to find out from the members of the group how they normally get about and see how representative they actually are.

Link to BBC news story

Evans, J. W. (1974). Defining representative bureaucracy. Public Administration Review, 34(6), 628-631.


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

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

HS2020 research presented at Inside Government: Next Steps for Revitalising UK High Streets

A guest blog by Dr Costastas Theodoridis and Dr Amna Kahn, of the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University

Town-centre and BID managers, policy-makers, practitioners and academics were gathered in London to discuss the revitalisation of the UK High Streets. In the all-day ‘Next Steps for Revitalising UK High Streets’ event delegates had the opportunity to find out about the recent developments in digital and traditional high-street management and development. The event was chaired by Dr Fiona Ellis-Chadwick from Loughborough University who also delivered a keynote speech focused on the digital high-street health-check index developed by her and her colleagues.

A lot of attention was paid to the digitisation of the high-streets and particularly to the benefits that retail organisations will see if they develop an active digital presence. Steve Woolley, from the Chartered Institute of Marketing, highlighted the impact that the management of the personal data has to the patronage of retailers and the threats that may occur if a retailer misuse the data collected by the consumers. The Institute of Place Management was represented in the event by its Director Simon Quin who reminded to the delegates the importance of location and the physical place, and presented the findings of the High Street UK 2020 project.

Simon discussed how the evolution of the retail environment is changing, looking at various relevant trends as identified by the part-funded ESRC HSUK2020 research project. As well as talking about the 25 priorities for town/city centre vitality and viability, Simon also presented research findings relating to footfall signatures that identify different kinds of centres and provided the views of the Institute of Place Management on the emerging issues. Simon Pitkeathley’s, CEO of the Camden Town Unlimited, presentation on the use of the technology to facilitate the transformation of High Streets addressed how the visual appearance, the visionary management of the High Streets, the development of diverse anchors and stores, and the amount and quality of recreational space in a High Street – areas identified within the 25 priorities for the High Streets in the HS2020 project – provided evidence from Camden Town on how the physical place can be promoted to the consumers through the use of digital tools.

The delegates had the opportunity to ask their questions to the speakers and their answers provided valuable insight on the understanding of the instrumental role of the digital technology to place management.lower_high_street_2_670_230_84_c1_c_c_0_0_1

Cathy, Professor of Shops


Today saw the Queen of Shop’s review of Britain’s high streets.  Mary Portas’ brief from David Cameron was “to create vibrant and diverse town centres and bring back the bustle to our high streets”.  This call for Britain’s towns to be ‘vital and viable’ is nothing new, in fact this commitment has been incorporated into various strands of national policy for at least 15 years.   

So why is the future for towns looking so bleak?  And what can the Queen of Shops do, that three successive governments have said they’d do and haven’t?       

Mary says that her report is not about pointing the finger of blame but in order to solve problems, you have to fully understand them.  The factors that drive town centre decline are complicated, interlinked, interdisciplinary and paradoxical.  As Mary points out  “(w)hen I started my work on the review, I ploughed through a huge pile of previous reports about high streets and town centres and found so many good ideas which have simply sat on the shelf. Pretty soon I realised why. What I discovered is the complexity and diversity of the problems faced by high streets.   And I’ve learnt just how much of a complex web of interests and stakeholders are involved, many of whom have simply failed to collaborate or compromise”.  

Town centre decline is ‘a messy problem’, it doesn’t fit neatly into one government department; one of the reasons why the Prime Minister chose to ask a celebrity consultant to conduct a review rather than his own civil servants.  Mary makes a lot of sensible recommendations, she doesn’t ask why the majority of her recommendations have already been made and in some instances, put into practice, but have still not worked.

“It’s obvious, it’s all wrong and anyway they said it years ago”.   Most of the on-line comments about her recommendations fit this paraphrase coined by the respected economic geographer Paul Krugman, commenting on how his economic geography and city development work was received by peer reviewers.  Nevertheless, these comments raise interesting questions. If a solution is obvious and ‘old hat’, then what has stopped it being put into practice?  Likewise, if something is ‘all wrong’ then why is that? And is the proposal at one end of a ‘solution continuum’, with its antithesis by the default of logic,  ‘all right’?

Although there are 28 recommendations, they fall into six main categories:  getting town centres running like businesses, getting the basics right to allow business to flourish, levelling the playing field, defining landlords roles and responsibilities, giving communities a greater say and re-imagining our high streets.

They are a mixture of top-down and bottom-up solutions that can be summed up in one recommendation.  Change needs to be locally driven within a supportive policy framework.

But three successive governments have known this already – and backed a commitment to ‘vital and viable’ town centres.  We know many towns are failing, especially those that are near cities and coastal towns, where retail vacancy rates run at nearly 30%.  Even the ones that are ‘viable’ or, in other words, are economically successful, are not vital in the same way they were. Research by the New Economics Foundation identify 41% of towns and cities as ‘clone towns’ i.e. more than half their shops are chains.  It’s hardly surprising that people are not using their town centre if it is only offering them an inconvenient ‘copy’ of what’s available in other more accessible areas such as out-of-town superstores or larger cities, that have good public transport links.

One of Mary’s main recommendations is to create ‘town teams’ to take a more direct role in the day-to-day running of a town and also create a vision and long-term plan for the place’s future.  There are already, I would estimate, 1,000 or so places that have such a partnership.  It might not be formal town centre management or a Business Improvement District, but the principle’s the same:  A partnership of local stakeholders, made up of businesses, the council and local residents.  Town centre management has been in place in the UK for nearly 25 years but it hasn’t been properly supported.  We know it’s a good idea but how do we actually encourage and facilitate it? The Portas Review does not address this.

Mary also talks about communities having more say, again an issue highlighted in recent government reforms such as the Localism Bill.  Traditionally it has been elected council members and their officers responsible for places.  The very fact that so many places have lost their way, illustrates Mary’s comment that these areas have been mismanaged and ignored for too long.  But in my experience it is hard to challenge the status quo, unless the existing governance structures are open to such change.  People responsible for places need to have the right skills and knowledge – it is a really important job so they need to be competent.  If they need some training and support, this needs to be available and if they are not up to the job, they shouldn’t do it.  Again, whilst Mary calls for professional and inclusive place management, she doesn’t say how this will happen.  

Her other main and very important recommendation is to level the playing field.  In particular recommendation 14 states “Make explicit a presumption in favour of town centre development in the wording of the National Planning Policy Framework”.  This will be interesting as this gets to the heart of the issue; will a government introducing planning reforms to simplify decision-making by getting rid of such guidance and statements be prepared to introduce this intervention?  Local action is crucial, as high streets won’t fix themselves, but this effort has to be within a supportive planning policy framework.  So if the Government really wants to put ‘town centres first’ then by default, it means other types of development coming last.

Town centres are more than just shopping destinations.  They have been the heart of the community, in economic, social and political terms.  Of course, if a centre doesn’t have a population to serve anymore, then this decline should be managed.  But for those towns and cities that still have a catchment then global trends, such as increasing transport costs, an ageing population and, ultimately, global warming, means that politicians should be doing what they can today to ‘future-proof’ our towns and cities.  They offer a concentration of services with transport links and a ready-made ‘brand’ (i.e. the town or city’s name).  In the long run, it is so much cheaper to not reinvent the wheel.

White paper: Tabula Rasa or Toilet Paper?

The Government published its White Paper today outlining the policy for economic growth entitled “Local Growth: Realising Every Place’s Potential”.  To save you the trouble I have spent the afternoon reading it.  Nick Clegg’s introduction says that the Coalition Government is “determined to do something different” (p.3) so I was interested in reviewing the paper to see just how much is really new and what it is likely to mean for some places. 

First of all, the Government is planning to stop prioritising investment on the basis of region or sector.  In relation to region, this absolves the Government of its previous responsibility to “narrow the growth rates between different regions”(p.11).  In the main, this relied on public funding but the White Paper states that the UK economy has become “unbalanced and too reliant on public spending”. 

There is a 1.4 billion Regional Growth Fund, which areas that “depend too heavily on the public sector for jobs” can bid for, to create more private sector employment.  But this is only available for three years.  Is it really possible to create a private-sector led local recovery in our most deprived areas in just 3 years? 

The Resilience Ranking compiled by Experian anked Middlesbrough, Mansfield and Stoke-on-Trent as the most at risk from public spending cuts.  I know these three areas very well, and even if they all got 1.4 billion pounds, it wouldn’t turn round decades of decline in three years.  Middlesbrough has had a £1.5 billion investment programme but it still has an unemployment rate of 6%, with some wards having rates as high as 17% (source: Tees Valley Unlimited).  The Public Sector provides much needed employment in these areas, I don’t see this as a ‘weakness’.  What’s wrong with having a few more teachers, doctors, police officers, park wardens etc. in places that need them? 

As for abandoning the prioritisation of certain sectors, that’s good news for those sectors that have been discriminated against, like the independent retail sector.  Whitehall has always looked down its nose at retail, as it doesn’t create wealth…it just moves it around.  Nevertheless, like the Public Sector, it provides a lot of employment and enterprise ‘training’. 

I presume the new Local Economic Partnerships (LEPs) will be free to invest in whatever sectors are locally important, rather than being told what to do by Central Government (and let’s face it, there are many more entrepreneurs that want to set up retail and service businesses than high-tech/bio-tech ones).  In principle, local decision making is a good thing, but it doesn’t always work. 

The local Training and Enterprise Councils (TECs) only lasted 10 years.  Like the LEPs, TECs were employer-led, with two-thirds of the members of each TEC board having to be chairs or chief executives of private sector employers.  But they were disbanded because, overall, they were not effective at local labour force development, many were accused of “creaming off” government funds for initiatives not relevant to local employment needs and rather than being entrepreneurial and efficient many were “out of control” and overly bureaucratic. 

So what else is not new?  12 directly elected mayors for the 12 largest English cities.  As my friend Choco from Stoke said on my Facebook today “We had it in stoke, party politics comes into it too much and there’s too much power in one persons hands it’s been ditched here amid allegations of corruption, wasting public funds and overpaid non local executives so beware!”. 

This reminded me of the country’s highest paid monkey (see picture above), the mayor of Hartlepool, who was elected on his manifesto of free bananas for schoolchildren. Hartlepool is now one of the country’s best performing local authorities and many credit Stuart Hammond (the man in the monkey suit) for providing strong and honest leadership.  So it can work, but maybe it is because he is not a career politician that means he has done things differently.  I can’t image us electing Moonchester here in Manchester.

Are you still awake?  Only a couple more things to go now.  Tax Increment Financing.  This is when local authorities can borrow money in anticipation of increased future revenue from business rates that result from their investment. I think I’ve got that right.  It’s nothing new in the US, who have thousands of TIF districts.  But we have already seen what private-sector led investment has done to many of our towns and cities, identical-looking blocks of flats, carbon-copy shopping centres and yawn, not-another-glass-office-building.

Finally, the Government proposes to reform the planning system so that local communities can make their own decisions “changing the culture of planning so that the default position is in favour of development” (p.28).  Usually the only reason local people get involved in the planning process is to stop development – so I think this is going to be the hardest change to deliver.

So, on the whole the proposed changes to the planning system have the potential to have the most radical impact on local areas…..but I am not sure if it will be positive or negative.  The cutbacks in public spending in the country’s most deprived areas will set them back even further….increasing the gap between the South East and the rest of the country.  On the positive side, this White Paper does promote place management (although it doesn’t refer to the multi-stakeholder partnership approach to place improvement in such terms).  So, in areas where strong partnerships already exist the reduction in top-down management from London should ‘free them up’ to achieve their potential.  It takes time to establish these partnerships though, especially ones that are truly representative of all local stakeholders.

Key to regeneration and enterprise?

Good Morning Folks!

This is Ben here, Live blogging on behalf of Cathy at the New Statesman Fringe event for the Labour Party Conference.

First of all may I admit that the daunting prospect of a Monday morning Live-blogging task has been made easier by the good people in Starbucks (St. Anne’s Square) by providing possibly the two most dangerous words for me; Free & Pastries… Crumbs aside, I’ll endeavour to get your up to speed as and when the event kicks off.

If you want to keep up in real-time, you can merely refresh this image and the Internet faeries will do the rest.

If you have any questions for the panel please fire them over to me by

Email: instituteofplacemanagement@googlemail.com

LinkedIn Group


Here’s the details folks;

Big brands: Key to regeneration and enterprise?
Starbucks & New Statesman Fringe Meeting at Labour Party Conference

And on the Panel we have;

Stephen Timms MP, Shadow Financial Secretary to the Treasury
The Rt Hon Stephen Timms is currently the Member of Parliament for East Ham.

Professor Cathy Parker, Professor of Retail and Marketing Enterprise, Manchester Metropolitan

Chris Ward, author ‘Coffice’

Susan Hinchcliffe, Regeneration and Partnerships Manager, Business in the Community

Chris Fletcher, Deputy Chief Executive, Greater Manchester Chamber of Commerce

Alex Preston, New Statesman columnist (chair)

Looks like things may be moving soon, so I’ll get settled and get blogging 🙂


Fire safety et al and we have kicked off, Spencer Neil (who incidentally, has misplaced his Yellow Notebook) introduces the panel. The danish pastries are going down a treat with what looks to be a room full of journo’s.

Cathy is Introduced as the ‘brightest of all of us’ which may not be far of from the truth at this time of the morning.

Steven Timms MP gets us underway with his take on branding with a quick pop quiz. “What is the oldest packaged brand, which is still available in the same packaging today”..Answers on a postcard to…(It is Tate and Lyle’s Golden Syrup)

After a resume of branding strategy and Steven’s ideas on the future, involving communities. He draws upon his experience in his constituency, East Ham where Primark moved in and he thinks added not only to the High St., but aided the community too (not sure Cathy wil agree with that last point).

Mr. Miliband gets his first mention of the morning as the new Labour Party leader will have to consider current partnerships with business and the wider community.

Next up is Susan Hinchcliffe from Business in the Community who tags onto the Rt. Hon Gentlemans brand quiz by adding that the brand in question hosts a number of social enterprises in its sugar refinery.  

Interesting point from Susan, in that big businesses don’t like to be the only player on the high st. and welcome competition from the independent retail sector. Susan refers to our own IPM members indirectly by asserting that Town Centre Managers struggle to engage with the big brands that straddle our high st.


And Cathy is up, kicking off with a reference to the High St Britain report.

Cathy talks about her interest and desire for proper place management on the high street and how successful tales towns up and down the country often have an existing board/initiative in place between the big brands, the independent operators  and the town’s top brass to manage these places.  Alex Preston is up next.

Alex touches upon the difficult issue of financing, comparing the borrowing power of  Diageo et al with the less favourable rates the government can borrow at.   After a brief introduction the final member of the panel Chris Wood gives us his two cents. Chris boasts an incredible CV from Boots counter worker to the founder of the doomed Friends Reunited among other initiatives. His book is on sale and he mentions that he works pretty much everyday, remotely from various coffee shops around the world and is a Foursquare efficiando.

The coffeeshop environment is explored from the entrepreneurs point of view as he suggests that

“If you are marketing to Mothers, spend time in a coffeeshop beside a school”

Interesting concept, although coffeeshop marketing may not take off as a moniker..


And the floor is open;

1. Patti from The Protection of Infant Health who thinks that we are concentrating on protecting big brands and ignoring the impact on real people…

-Cathy address this first wondering whether CSR is actually a misnomer, a big brand’s responsibility is to its shareholders before wider society. 

2. A labour candidate queries the panel on their consideration of awareness of corporate structure.

-Social enterprises are cracked open by Susan and while appreciating the scope for the good work they are doing, she points out that they are thin on the ground.  Cathy thinks that new forms of corporate structure, such as Community Interest Companies have a lot of potential to manage and regenerate areas.

3. How can charities get involved without compromising their charitable intentions?

Chris: Decisions about Fairtrade are not made because high st. brands really believe in them, it is ultimately because it makes them look good. SME’s alse use FT to hijack a bigger brand than themselves.

4. Is a new Sainsburys imact on small dying high st. town (Staffordshire-Moreland) a good thing?

Susan: Yes it is a good idea, but something must support it, like supplementary shops and cafes. This can be tackled by proper design and planning to create shops in between the Supermarket and the main part of the town.

Cathy: It depends if anyone is trying to leverage the impact of Sainsbury’s for the good of the High Street.   Coordination of effort from a place management body can achieve ‘co-opetition’…where large and small operators both compete but collaborate at the same time.

Alex: Some recent research in the US has found that whenever a Wallmart sets up out of town, the level of participation in political elections goes down.  Point being that there tends to be a disengagement within a community when they have to leave the centre to go shopping.

5. Mechanism to allow Big brands to put funding support into local charities/initiatives

-Steve refers to the ROI for governments investing which will result in lower offending rates. Idea of social returns is a very lucrative one for local councils and will be noticed at the highest level of government.

-True mutual partnerships are not just based upon cash, it may involve sitting on a board, attending meetings etc.

And that’s your lot folks, very interesting debate and I don’t think I’ve done it justice today as I can’t type as fast as the banter went back and forth.

Again, any comments, drop us a line on any of the following:

Email: instituteofplacemanagement@googlemail.com

LinkedIn Group


or visit us on: http://www.placemanagement.org/

Good morning