A future for Ireland’s towns?

Irish towns
Sligo at River Garavogue (An Gharbhóg) in County Sligo, Ireland.

by Prof Simon Quin

Ireland’s town and city centres are not yet facing the same loss of sales to online retailing as those in the UK (now 17% of all sales according to the Centre for Retail Research), but they are extremely concerned about the likely impact of Brexit, still feeling the impact of out of town shopping, and seeing other social and technological change. An event in Sligo in October 2017 attracted delegates from across both the Republic and Northern Ireland to discuss the changes affecting town centres and how they can best respond.

Chaired by Bobby Kerr, the Chairman of Insomnia Coffee and a campaigner for ‘Winning Back the High Street’, the event opened by looking at the potentially eventually devastating impact of Brexit on many Irish towns despite the strength of the national economy. Catherine Curran, from the Department for Business, Enterprise and Innovation then presented the Framework for Town Centre Renewal (https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/A-Framework-for-Town-Centre-Renewal.pdf) document that was launched in April 2017. This document was developed by an influential group of interested parties from the public and private sectors, including Dublin Town BID, who came together as the Retail Consultation Forum. Recognising the inherent strengths of town centres and their significant role in the economy, the document proposes a three-stage process for all town centres in the country.


Step One is to develop the evidence base by engaging with stakeholders and undertaking a health check. Guidance on this is provided in the report and indicators, such as footfall, diversity, competition, and vacancy, are described.

Step Two is about collaboration and bringing together a group of stakeholders. The document talks about local champions and representation and provides examples from existing Town Teams, BIDs and other partnerships in various locations.

The third step is the preparation of a plan for town centre renewal with a vision, strategy and action plan and some key performance indicators. The Framework helpfully highlights the national policy framework within which local action plans will need to operate. It also looks at potential interventions and details how these should be addressed.

Although much of what is in the Framework will be familiar to those engaged in place management in the UK, the concept has not been widely adopted yet in Ireland and the document is well presented and easy to read and will hopefully lead to much wider take-up. It will also act as an excellent reminder for those elsewhere who want to refresh their approach.

A future for Ireland’s towns?

Work on the health checks has already begun in Ireland and the results of some of the pilot initiatives were described by Tara Buckley, Director General of the Retail, Grocery, Dairy and Allied Trades Association, who was part of the Retail Consultation Forum.

The work the Institute has been doing with data from Springboard and working with other partners to understand town centres and develop new approaches to ensure their vitality and viability was a natural fit into this conference. I was able to talk about how we identified the 25 most important factors for town centre vitality (http://placemanagement.org/media/50610/Executive-Summary.pdf), to explain how retail hierarchies are now redundant and we now need to think about towns in terms of usage (http://placemanagement.org/footfall-signatures/) as this will determine the most appropriate actions to be taken in an individual centre. I also talked about approaches to town centre management in terms of Repositioning, Reinventing, Rebranding and Restructuring which we will be releasing articles on in the next month.

The conference heard from a number of Institute members and past students, including Mo Aswat from Mosaic about the international experience of BIDs, Gail McGibbon about the experience of the BID in Sligo, Julienne Elliott about the development of the Coleraine BID, and Richard Hamilton of Future Analytics on the town planning perspective of a healthy town. Other locations featured included Waterford, Ennis and Enniskillen.

Thanks are due to the organisers and sponsors for a well-designed event. More detail about the summit is available at https://www.thefutureoftowns.ie/.

The 39 steps – to understanding High Street performance – Part 1

Infographic-website_900x900This month our new Innovate project started. The project will bring big data to town and city centre decision makers, enabling them to optimise footfall whilst also improving the experience of centre users. The first stage of the project (running from now until Spring 2017) is very research focused.  Because we have over 9 years of hourly footfall data, courtesy of the project lead Springboard, the research team at the Institute of Place Management (Manchester Metropolitan University) and the University of Cardiff can really start to work out how and why town and city centres perform as they do.  Our findings will then be incorporated into a place management information system and a serious of dashboard products, built by our technology partners MyKnowledgeMap.

These new products will support decision making in towns and cities, by making important data more readily available and more easily accessible to the wide range of stakeholders who need to collaborate to build strong centres. Continue reading “The 39 steps – to understanding High Street performance – Part 1”

Multifunctional Centres: a sustainable role for town and city centres

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By Rept0n1x – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=7475787

by Dr Steve Millington, Nikos Ntounis, Prof Cathy Parker and Simon Quin

Executive summary [You can download the full report from the IPM site]

Whilst omni-channel retailing and the digital high street may be two of the latest talking points in the retail property industry, our towns and city centres have always been shape by a series of technological, social and political revolutions. The purpose of this report is to examine how, after many years of mono-functionality focused upon retailing, our centres are experiencing something of a renaissance, and remerging as multi-functional ones, supporting leisure and recreation, employment, tourism, heritage, culture, housing, employment, education, health and wellbeing, as well as retail. Continue reading “Multifunctional Centres: a sustainable role for town and city centres”

Markets Matter: Reviewing the evidence & detecting the market effect

 

Berwick_street_market_1

Executive Summary

At the request of the National Association of British Market Authorities and, as part of the High Street UK2020 project, we have conducted a comprehensive review of the published evidence demonstrating, unequivocally, that markets contribute to the economic, social and political health of towns and cities. We have also conducted analyses of large footfall datasets, provided by Springboard, to show that markets add to the vitality of specific centres. Finally, we show how markets act as important catalysts for change in town and city centres. These are the 25 most important reasons why markets matter, identified in this report.

[You can download the full report from the IPM site]

Continue reading “Markets Matter: Reviewing the evidence & detecting the market effect”

The High Street and technology: Friend or foe?

cathy
by Prof. Cathy Parker
The Internet is a transformative technology. It is changing retailing. At IPM we have been lucky enough to have access to Springboard’s historical footfall data. We have analysed over half a billion shopper movements, and the overall picture is that town centres and traditional retail areas like High Streets are in decline.

Continue reading “The High Street and technology: Friend or foe?”