The Digital, Rural, High Street

Often, as a Professor, you get to read some really interesting projects and dissertations. Ed Dargan, one of our MSc Internet Retailing students, has just completed his thesis on the role of technology to enhance food shopping in rural areas. Because of this I thought he was well placed to give us his views on the Digital High Street 2020 report. Along with the recent High Street Information sheet we sent out earlier in the week – it seems like traditional retail centres are being offered a new lease of life by technology. What does Ed think?

Guest Blog


Ed Dargan, MSc Internet Retailing

The Digital High Street 2020 report identifies that the digital revolution has significantly impacted high streets by offering local consumers alternatives to transacting in a physical fashion. This is interesting because for my MSc dissertation (MMU Business School), I have just researched consumer and food producer/retailers attitudes towards the use of online food purchasing options. Although the area of study was limited to rural South Shropshire, the findings seem to be relevant.

Most of the consumers interviewed had bought online from the main supermarkets but had reverted to in-store shopping mainly due to the lack of reliable order delivery and inability to select the nature of food items, for example ready to eat bananas.

Don’t get to choose what fruit and veg you have and you end up getting green bananas which you can’t eat that day as not ripe or they replace things you don’t want replacing – we tried it for convenience but would rather do our shopping whilst we’re out and about rather than pay for it to be delivered here

Most supported the local shops, especially speciality shops such as the butcher and greengrocer because of the freshness, quality and trust in the produce. All valued the social interactions made whilst shopping whether with shop owners, stallholders at the farmers market or simply bumping into people they know.

“At the weekend we like to walk down the town and get our meat and have a look around – like to have a mooch”.

For most of the consumers, planning their food consumption on a weekly basis was important. Reasons given included saving money, reducing the amount of wasted food and eating more healthily. However, some were far more spontaneous enjoying making use of what was available in the local shops.

“Try and eat healthily so plan things so saves cost and reduces waste and did find we used to waste a lot of food. Spent far more on weekly shop and now we plan it’s much more efficient”

Trust in food produce was viewed as important and best established face-to-face with the producer or retailer as consumers valued the ability to sample food, talk to the retailer or producer, especially if unknown.

“We buy our meat locally as fussy about it”

The retailers and food producers reflected this finding in identifying that customer acquisition was best driven by direct interactions with consumers and not digital channels. For the food producers in particular, local markets and food fairs were the preferred venues for customer acquisition. Where websites existed, returning customers were the main users.

My experience is, everyone buys it where they can see it, touch it and talk to someone and if you can get interest and discuss and start to talk about a particular producer and it’s history, then people engage and more interested in what they want to buy”

For the food producers and retailers interviewed, most of which were two person micro businesses where resources were already stretched. The idea of managing a shop, attending farmers markets and/or regional food shows, maintaining an ecommerce site, fulfilling online orders and serving customers in store was perceived as unachievable. Employing more staff was not viewed as an option due to lack of income and also a desire to not expand beyond being a family business. Many cited issues with business rates, landlord rents, a lack of collaboration between businesses and a lack of regional and local leadership.

“We don’t want to get bigger, we don’t want to be high volume so we focus on quality within a limited capacity – we’re a family run business”

From a digital perspective, the idea of having a town website where all the shops and local services can be viewed was received positively and thought to be useful for people new to a town in particular. However, most consumers stated a preference to buy in-store rather than online. Yet, the idea of a centralised click and collect point where consumers, particularly those that commute, could pick up their orders from various producers and retailers on the way home, was considered useful. Of course, the research is based in a rural community, and a small number of respondents (9) and so issues such as car journey length are prioritised.

However, comparing my findings with those of the Digital High Street 2020 report raises an important question. How do we ensure that small rural market towns are included in such a programme and not overlooked to the detriment of the local retailers and the rural economy?

Poundland and the 99p Stores

Poundland wants to buy 99p Stores and I was invited, along with retail analyst, Kate Hardcastle, to discuss this with Naga Munchetty and Charlie Stayt on BBC Breakfast this morning.

Poundland has around 600 stores and plans to take-over all 251 99p Stores. This ambitious expansion strategy is typical of many UK retailers and, as a result, we have a very concentrated retail landscape. As a nation, a high percentage of retail sales are transacted through a relatively low number of multiple retailers.

Growth through acquisition is somewhat inevitable; Poundland now has to keep a very impatient set of shareholders happy. Since it was floated on the stock exchange last year, shares in Poundland dropped 3.7% as the company saw a slowdown in growth, mainly due to planned new stores not opening on time. With the city breathing down its neck, acquisition is the quickest way to grow. If the deal goes through, Poundland gets 50% bigger overnight, rather than having to wait to expand incrementally, where suitable premises have to be found on a town-by-town basis.

Poundland have been very successful, despite that small share price blip. They generate more sales per store than the 99p Stores, and have more outlets, so are the stronger operator. They have invested in store development, so their stores look modern and well organised. They have expanded their range to encourage more affluent customers, like their bakeware tie-in with Jane Asher. Finally, they work with big, well-known brands to offer consumers the products they are used to.

After so much doom and gloom about town centres, it is good to see that some high street retailers are doing so well. This supports our High Street 2020 findings – our analysis of Springboard’s national footfall data shows that many towns are doing fine. Especially those that are well on their way to adjusting to structural changes in the sector, by becoming ‘convenience centres’ – where people pop in regularly for everyday items, food, personal and household products, rather than more expensive things like clothing.

The fixed-price retailers are well placed to take advantage of these changes in shopping habits – and strengthen the offer of a convenient town centre – as they are reliable, in terms of range, price and opening hours. The fixed-price retailers have taken trade from lots of different retailers – including the local market. In fact, in terms of offer, a traditional market is probably a closer rival to Poundland than the discount supermarkets. Many traditional markets offer very similar merchandise – sometimes even cheaper. The problem with markets is they are often not so well organised and well branded and do not have such a clear fixed-price message.

The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) will be investigating the deal as they will want to be assured that both consumers and suppliers will not be disadvantaged by the loss of a fixed-price retailer (i.e 99p Stores).

On the supply side – even with the additional stores, Poundland will not be powerful enough to exert undue pressure on suppliers. For example, their sales of FMCG brands are a drop in the ocean compared to the ‘Big Four’.

Likewise, it’s pretty hard to see how the price the consumer pays would be adversely affected as both companies effectively offer the same products at the same price (give or take a penny). Normally the CMA are concerned that a buyout of this nature could force prices up for consumers, but unless Poundland change their brand to TwoPoundland or even OnePoundTenLand after the acquisition I can’t see how prices can rise.

What the CMA may do is force Poundland to give up some of their stores so that other rivals can compete more fairly, with a more similarly sized portfolio. But retail competition is a very local issue, and unless specific stores are named by the CMA for divestment, then it’s unlikely to impact on Poundland’s position.


3 distinguishing characteristics of a functional market town

On Wednesday, on our #HSUK2020 tour, we were in Altrincham to discuss what makes a market town. Altrincham received its market charter in 1290 and is currently positioning itself as a ‘modern market town‘.

The UK footfall data supplied to us by Springboard suggests there are two types of market town (see Figure 1). The first, rather sadly, is more of an ex-market town, that really no longer functions as one. These towns do not have a strong weekly market and have lost other important services, such as, for example, their cottage hospital or registry office. These ‘ex-market’ or dysfunctional market towns (1) have a footfall profile equivalent to a community/convenience centre – in other words, footfall is fairly stable across the months, with no noticeable peaks.


                                                                                                      Figure 1 : Footfall profiles

In contrast, the functional market town, has a different type of footfall profile, with noticeable peaks around Easter and July and a gradual increase in footfall from September to December.

Comparing the footfall profile of a functional market town to other town types, it would appear that the modern market town has a little bit of everything. Which, of course, it always did have. It offers convenience; those important everyday products and services like food shopping, a library, doctors and opticians etc. It has leisure, recreation – and entertainment like gyms, sports fields or a swimming pool, a cinema or a theatre. And there are places for the community to meet; coffee shops, cafes, pubs and restaurants.

The functional market town also offers some comparison shopping; clothes, homewares, maybe a bookshop or two, as well as some more important services to the surrounding area, maybe a hospital or FE college. This all comes packaged in what might be a fairly ‘low-key’ but nevertheless historic environment which offers a pleasant visitor experience and an important link with the past.

Of course, this description applies to a great many small or medium towns. So, in our workshop with Altrincham Forward we explored some of the fundamental characteristics of a market town and what these might look like in today’s market towns.

The 3 defining characteristics of a modern market town.

1. There is a market and it is an anchor.

Seems obvious, but if your town hasn’t got a market building, a market place, or temporary market ‘space’ (such as a high street), then it can’t be a market town. Even if it has the physical space for a market, it’s imperative that whatever is in it (the collective offer from all the operators) is behaving as an anchor – and is generating significant footfall to the town.

Marketplaces represent prime retail space in market towns – in terms of delivering on the ‘brand’. They can’t afford to be occupied by operators who do not provide the merchandise or collective/relevant opening hours and service that will actually drive footfall – in contrast to just ‘ticking over’. This isn’t to say all markets should be gentrified. For example, Bury Market is a very successful traditional market, selling a wide range of value products, which brings in coach loads of people from all over the North.

2. The market town plays an important role in the network of nearby places. (2)

Market towns served the surrounding hinterland – not only with commerce and a market but also by providing other services, as well as being the seat of local government. Again, these are important drivers of footfall. Losing a health centre, council offices or a college reduces a town’s relevance to its catchment – and undermines its power.

Market towns should remain a focus for local supply chains and the local economy, providing financial and professional services, such as banks, architects, solicitors and accountants, as well as office space and employment. Altrincham, for example, has nearly 3000 businesses in and around the town centre.

But market towns are not only important economically. Once or twice a year, market towns were transformed into very special places for the community, during annual fairs and festivals. These events really would be the highlight of the year to many people. To what extent does the modern market town position itself as the heart of the community – with such celebrations? And how hard does the modern market town work to strengthen and reinforce the network with nearby places? Does it compete when it should be collaborating?

Finally, market towns should be relevant to the whole community, old and young. In Altrincham we heard that young people didn’t feel the town had anything to offer them. In other towns, the success of the Teenage Market and local music festivals proves that young people can be persuaded to come into town centres.

3. The market town is the one most accessible to most people.

Originally, people would travel to their nearest market town. It might be a two hours’ walk – but the other options might be three or five hours’ away. A modern market town will be accessible by a variety of transport routes from the smaller centres and hinterland, including public transport, cycle paths and maybe even the original footpaths. The modern market town, one that maintains its status, is likely to be the most accessible market town to the most people in an area.

Because of their location, in relation to other towns, and because their important status was ‘protected’ through the control of market licenses, market towns had no competition. Nowadays, it is a very different commercial landscape. There are bigger centres, like cities nearby; or other destinations, like out-of-town retail parks easily accessible by car. There are even other retail channels, like on-line, competing for consumers. But none of these can replace a market town with its special mix of convenience, community, retail, services, leisure and entertainment, history and heritage all packaged up at a compact and manageable scale.

For a town like Altrincham, a huge conurbation has grown up around it, since it received its market charter. This means it is now accessible and relevant to an urban ‘hinterland’ devoid of many traditional and rural connections. Recent improvements to the canal tow path means people can now walk or cycle safely from Manchester or nearby suburbs.

The footfall data suggest that the town is punching way above its position in the retail hierarchy. With its tram line, train station, and canal path it is now the most accessible and important market town to a population of 350,000 people in a 5 mile radius. Perhaps the modern market town has not changed so much, providing a weekly fix of a bit of everything, in a distinct but reassuring setting. Market towns have a scale, format and offer we are very used to and, it would seem, fond of. They are, perhaps, a tangible representation of many people’s perceptions of what a town should be.

Cathy Parker, Nikos Ntounis and Simon Quin.


2. Action For Market Towns, 2005, Healthcheck Handbook.

You can find out more about the High Street UK2020 project at

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.


Join us in Poland to share the latest thinking on sustainable, liveable and connected places

The 3rd Institute of Place Management Conference will be held at Poznań University of Economics (Faculty of Management) on the 6th-8th May 2015 in partnership with Manchester Metropolitan University, Poznań University of Economics and Stockholm University (Stockholm Programme of Place Branding).

The conference is titled “Sustainability, liveability and connectivity” and the three main themes of the conference will be place management, place branding and the influence of global trends on places.

As place management, marketing and branding develop both as academic inquiry and as professional practice, the conference will be an opportunity for academics, practitioners and policy makers to explore how theory and practice help places deal with the conflicting pressures of global forces with a need to pursue sustainability outcomes – to increase the quality of life of place residents – all within the context of increased connectivity – real and virtual.

To make sure the debate is as interdisciplinary and inclusive as possible we welcome papers that explore the themes of the conference from any discipline perspective and from both academics and practitioners. Please see the full call for papers here.

The conference will be fully accredited as Continuing Professional Development by the Institute of Place Management. In addition to the conference, there are a number of other social and networking events. A full calendar is available on the conference website. The best papers from the conference will be published in a Special Issue of the Journal of Place Management and Development..

The conference will take place in Poznań in Poland at Poznań University of Economics. Poznań University of Economics, founded in 1926, is both a teaching and a research institution with a long tradition in education and strong academic standing, and is also famous for its credibility in economic analyses. Poznań is among the oldest and biggest cities in Poland located in the west-central part of the country. Poznań is one of the largest Polish centers of trade, industry, sports, education, technology, tourism and culture. It is particularly important academic center, with about 130,000 students.

The Conference Chair is Dr Magdalena Florek (FIPM, UEP).

Important dates

15 November 2014
Deadline for abstract submission

15 January 2015
Review announced

15 March 2015
Full paper submission deadline

Abstracts between 400 and 450 words should be submitted to Dr. Magdalena Florek ( and Dr. Anna Augustyn ( Contributions will be double-blind reviewed by the conference scientific committee members on the basis of their relevance, quality and originality. Abstracts should be submitted as Microsoft Word documents and should feature a title and the names and affiliations of all authors. Please use Times New Roman 12-pitch font, double spaced, 1-inch (2.5 cm) margin all around.

Improving High Street Performance through Collaboration

There is little evidence to link collaboration between stakeholders and retail centre performance, although this premise is central to much of the town centre and place management literature. For example, Sweeting (2002) notes that “local leaders have to play the roles of entrepreneur and facilitator; generating consensus/collaboration”,

Our research found that collaboration came 19th out of 201 factors that influence the vitality and viability of the high street. So it’s really important!
What do we mean by collaboration? Well, something along the lines of ‘co-marketing alliances or lateral relationships between firms at the same level in the value added chain’ (Bucklin & Sengupta, 1993; page 32), through, for example, the creation of Business Improvement Districts (Steel & Symes, 2005) or retail associations (Coca-Stefaniak et al., 2005). In other words, a form of ‘working partnership’ defined by Anderson & Narus, (1990; page 42) as the ‘…mutual recognition and understanding that the success of each form depends in part on the other firm” – a conscious recognition of agglomeration economics and the benefits these brings to traders and consumers (Hotelling 1929; Harris & Shonkwiler 1997; McLafferty & Ghosh 1987).

Collaboration implies stakeholders are willingly participating in activities that benefit the High Street – in a way ‘management’ does not. Perhaps that’s why our experts thought it had more influence on place performance than town centre or place management. Is it time we changed our name?


Anderson, J. C., & Narus, J. A. (1990). A model of distributor firm and manufacturer firm working partnerships. the Journal of Marketing, 42-58.

Bucklin, L. P., & Sengupta, S. (1993). Organizing successful co-marketing alliances. The Journal of Marketing, 32-46.

Coca-Stefaniak, J. A., Parker, C., Barbany, A., Garrell, X., & Segovia, E. (2005). Gran Centre Granollers–“city, culture and commerce”. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management, 33(9), 685-696.

Harris, T. R., & Shonkwiler, J. S. (1997). Interdependence of retail businesses. Growth and Change, 28(4), 520-533.

Hotelling, H, (1929), Stability in Competition, Economic Journal, 39 (1929), 41-57.

Ghosh, A., & McLafferty, S. L. (1987). Location strategies for retail and service firms. Lexington: Lexington Books.

Steel, M., & Symes, M. (2005). The Privatisation of public space? The American experience of business improvement districts and their relationship to local governance. Local Government Studies, 31(3), 321-334.

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

Improving High Street Performance Through Business Support

The shopping centre, town centre and place/destination management literature argues that management can and should involve business support interventions, such as training and advice.

There are some studies which have investigated business training and support within particular locations (e.g. Parker et al, 2003), but the provision of business support is not an explicit objective of most town centre partnerships. Whilst there are other structures and agencies that provide business support to the retail sector, the take up by businesses and individuals is significantly lower than in other sectors.

In our town workshops in Holmfirth, Morley and Barnsley last week, many improvements to the town centre were identified that need the full cooperation of retailers. These changes included adapting opening hours to meet the needs of the catchment and improving the overall customer experience when shopping in-town.

Retailers, especially independent retailers, are sometimes reticent to change their operations – but as consumer behaviour changes, so retailers need to adapt. Programmes of training, education or ‘sensitisation’ are used effectively in other sectors to support change.

Our previous research demonstrates that there is better take-up of these initiatives if they are packaged as ‘business support’ rather than training. Retailers need to be confident that investment in these activities will impact on the bottom- line. So, the provision, types and take up of business support and its impact upon both retail and high street performance are important areas for further research (Parker, Ntounis, Quin and Grime, 2014). This will enable a more convincing evidence base to be build to encourage High Street businesses of the benefits of getting good advice, training and support.

We will be presenting all the factors that impact upon high street performance and their relative influence at our conference in Manchester on 10th July 2014. The conference will also be streamed live of the Internet.

Please register your place by clicking this link


Parker, C., Anthony-Winter, T and Tabernacle, D. (2003). Learning by stealth: Introducing smaller retailers to the benefits of training and education in Barnet. International Journal of Retail & Distribution Management.

Parker, C., Ntounis N-F, Quin, S and Grime, I. (2014). High Street Research Agenda: Identifying High Street research priorities. Journal of Place Management and Development

This blog entry was written by Cathy Parker, Nikos Ntounis and Simon Quin and is part of the ESRC funded High Street UK 2020 project.

How business rates impact upon high street performance – the evidence

There is an ongoing talk about the re-evaluation of business rates, and several high profile reports (e.g. the Grimsey Review 2013) call for drastic measures in the business rates system before it is ‘too late’ for the high street.

The University of Liverpool and Local Data Company are investigating factors that affect business rates (occupation, vacancy rates and rents ) and their preliminary analysis highlighted the disproportions in rents, vacancy rates and business rates – meaning some high streets are suffering more than others.

A CLG (2011) report presented a government plan that allows local authorities to retain a part of the income generated by business rates to reinvest in their own economic development priorities .

However, De Magalhaes’s (2012) highlights the problem with redistribution of business rates to local authorities, which still does not guarantee money will be spent in-line with a particular place’s priorities.

This is in contrast to the surtax generated by Business Improvement Districts, which is always re-invested locally, according to priorities set by the BIDs’ members.

Secondary shopping areas seem to suffer the most from the business rates system, and this was recognised in a scoping paper by Tym et al. (2000) who called for business rates revisions in these areas.

Also, Findlay & Sparks (2009) raised their concerns about business rates and argued whether they are well matched with the buying power of users and types of retailer present in a location.

In our research, business rates came out the 32nd strongest influence on high street performance, out of 200 factors, on a equal pegging with rents.

We will be presenting the order of influence of all 200 factors we investigated at the free High Street 2020 conference in Manchester on 10th July 2014.

Please click here to register.


CLG. (2011). Local Government Resource Review: Proposals for Business Rates Retention – Consultation, (July).

De Magalhaes, C., & De Magalhães, C. (2012). Business Improvement Districts and the recession: Implications for public realm governance and management in England. Progress in Planning, 77(4), 143–177. Retrieved from

Findlay, A., & Sparks, L. (2009). Literature Review: Policies Adopted to Support A Healthy Retail Sector and Retail Led Regeneration and the Impact of Retail on the Regeneration of Town Centres and Local High Streets. Scottish Government. Retrieved April 29, 2014, from

Grimsey, B, 2013, The Grimsey Review.

Tym, R. (2000). Secondary Shopping: Retail Capacity and Need —A Scoping Paper. National Retail Planning Forum, (June 9).

Barriers to expansion on the High Street

Following on from yesterday’s review of barriers to entry and the High street, we now move on to expansion. Again we have evidence that the structure of existing locations can act as a barrier to expansion. “Location strategies of multiples have shifted the retail center of gravity away from the High Street” (Karamychev & van Reeven, 2009).

However, there is evidence for expansion of specific sectors on the High Street , e.g. convenience stores and independent stores; Local Data Company’s Openings and Closures 2013 report has covered the rise of independents on the High Street (over 2000 stores) and the exiting of multiples towards out-of-town retail parks and agglomerations.

The convenience sector has also expanded its presence on the High Street, and whilst there has been criticism of the dominance of multiples in this sector, a Competition Commission report that concluded that it could “not find any significant distortions in competition between large grocery retailers and convenience store operators”. As a result, it did “not consider that the expansion into convenience store retailing by large grocery retailers such as Sainsbury’s and Tesco is having an adverse effect on competition” (Competition Commision, 2007, p. 14).

Wrigley et al. (2009) suggested that the opening of a big supermarket in the city centre can generate urban buzz (Storper & Venables, 2004) and positive spill over effects to the High Street as a result of ‘linked trip’ behaviour.
However, they found it can also accelerate the exit of small stores from isolated/peripheral elements.

A ‘non causal linkage’ between growth of population and household income in the catchment area and supermarket entrance and increased trade is supported by Experian/Goad and highlighted in Wrigley et al.’s (2009) work. Significant increases in the number of small stores can be seen in town centres/high streets with a more slowly growing catchment which was simultaneously experiencing population-composition change in terms of increasing ethnic diversity. For example, increases in independent convenience stores are linked to catchment-area expansion of Central/Eastern European, Asian, and other groups; what Guy (2008) refers to as the `Polish grocer’ effect.

In conclusion, Wrigley and Dolega (2011) proved that higher floorspace occupancy by key/`magnet’ retailers on the High Street does not affect expansion, and also increases resilience. In addition, our High Street UK 2020 identifies the role of local management in reducing barriers to entry and expansion. Business improvement districts are engaged in various business retention, expansion and attraction efforts (Gross, 2005).

The relative influence of all these factors will be explained at our free High Street UK2020 conference in Manchester on 10th July 2014.

Register here