Surely, there is more to life than shopping?

Stephen Robertson, Director General of the British Retail Consortium announced that UK retail sales values were down by 0.4% on a like-for-like basis from August 2011, when they were down 0.6% on the preceding year.

He said “”there’s no evidence here of any Olympic boost to retail sales overall. Sadly, apart from April – distorted by Easter timings – August saw the worst sales growth this year”.

“Hot weather and the Olympics did help sales of party food and drink but that was more than offset by a really weak performance for non-food goods”.

“It’s clear people were absorbed by the magnificent Olympics and had little interest in shopping, especially for major items. Usually-reliable online sales suffered, putting in the worst sales growth since we started the measure four years ago. Some retailers told us online activity was particularly thin in the evenings. If people weren’t watching television they were more likely to be following the sport on PCs and mobile devices than shopping”.

Here at the IPM we feel we have our sense in human nature restored by such a story. Retailing is important…but is not everything. If people were enjoying the Olympics and not shopping then so be it. Come on BRC get a sense of perspective…….

21st Century High Streets

The IPM has heralded this report in our latest Bulletin which went out this week.  The majority of our Bulletins deal with keystone reports like this, but I’m amazed at the activity on our LinkedIn group, where this topic has been raised some time ago.

The report looks at what makes visiting a high street a great experience, irrespective of whether it carries local shops or flagship stores. It  has to be commended for their dissection of the issues high-streets face, even using characterisations and a bit of personalisation.

Place, Realm, Planning, Accessibility, Safety & Regulation and the main characters, although I’m tempted to add Sleepy to make it 7 dwarves who patrol our high-streets!

They also flag up the difference between the traditional high street I grew up in and the ones that meander their way through our cities today. I don’t usually ascribe to cheesy nostalgia but after seeing this advertising legend and its recent progeny, I did recall the necessity of a group of recognisable businesses in one place. Aside from serving the public with their wares, they facilitated conversation and interaction between mothers, butchers and the like.

If the towns we grew up in had no communal area for civic interaction, who is not to say that mistrust and suspicion would run rife between the chattering masses. This lack of cohesion could lead to negative effects in a community which could cost local authorities millions every year. As we set out in our charter, one of the primary goals of place management is to create an area for this engagement, but we often overlook these micro-effects.

A recent article by one of our fellows, Gurjit Singh, put our work into perspective on a Mega-macro-level by analysing the recent UAE developments into the Arabian Sea, and this guy manages an island in Singapore!

Closer to home, we can hail the case studies brought up but the BRC report in particular Belfast. The recent influx of money by the Department for Social Development will, I hope, shrug off years of negative perception and emerge with a Belfast that is rapidly becoming a cohesive and modern city, desirable to live in by all.

Although the crystal ball tactics of predicting how this dreaded r-word will fare in the upcoming months are not my forte. (One thing I have noticed in recent times is that the more we talk about the r-word, the more it is perpetuated, so I shall refrain from referring directly to it!) The one thing I can assure you of is that the IPM will be working hard to ensure high streets will be fully supported by advice and encouragement through their Place Managers.

Obviously, this report is a small part in a larger debate and if you would like to throw your two cents in, you can get in touch with the BRC directly here. Or you could follow some of our lively discussion boards on LinkedIn either.

See you next week