Spring 2020 will be one for the history books as Covid-19 takes hold across the globe. But we need to start the thinking about what we could be facing on the other side, and take advantage of the opportunities where they exist, says placemaking consultant BEN STEPHENSON.
The rolling news cycle is both excruciating and addictive, with small, incremental developments about the spread of coronavirus available at every page-refresh. It’s exhausting and unhealthy to fixate on the immediate problem without also looking beyond, to how we plan for the recovery.
So much commentary surrounding the economic fortunes of town and city centres in the UK in recent years alludes to a “before” and “after”, sometimes implicitly, sometimes explicitly. The “before”? Well, that usually refers to a pre-2008 financial crisis golden age, where town centre retail was in plentiful supply, upward-only rental reviews were commonplace, and the high street was the destination of choice for shoppers. Fast forward to the post-recession era, we entered the age of the “after”, where squeezed household budgets, reduced credit, fuelled a rise in charity shops, cheaper online alternatives, budget retailers and bargain hunting.
The past decade has been a turbulent one for our towns and cities culminating in a vote to leave the EU on the 23 June 2016. Will this vote to redraw the boundaries of a major trading bloc and political union, significantly altering the geopolitical landscape, have such a profound legacy that high streets will be understood in the dichotomy of “pre-Brexit” and “post-Brexit”? Continue reading “JPMD Open Acces: Guest Editorial High Street UK 2020”→
Figures released earlier this month show that Christmas shopping did not bring the gift of high street renewal to towns and cities around the UK. According to the Springboard Index[i], the benchmark for UK footfall, fewer people visited the high street, compared to the same period last year.
Jean Ball MIPM was City Centre Manager in Stoke-on-Trent back in 2007 when she was amongst the first coterie to qualify for Membership of the IPM. After an early career in retail Jean got involved in the arts and events industry delivering a diverse array of conferences, exhibitions, performances and spectacles in places ranging from a converted barn in rural Cheshire to Madison Square Gardens in New York. More recently, after over ten years in operational town and city centre management, Jean now works across the UK supporting places, people and organisations to achieve their potential. Continue reading “Meet the IPM: Interview with Jean Ball”→
This 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.
On the 4th July 2016 I was invited to take part in the inaugural Oxfordshire High Streets Conference. I am saying inaugural as the delegates found the day very useful so we hope there will be another one! As a place management scholar, there is nothing better than sharing place insight and debating its relevance, in a local context. As a researcher, I get to know a lot about problems and I get to know my data intimately. But, my work tends to be read by academics and other people who also focus on the data/problem side of things. This means I don’t always connect with the people who want to put our research findings into practice. To get the opportunity to present our research on footfall signatures at the event was especially rewarding. Having the chance to hear directly from representatives of towns that feel their centre’s profile is changing from one of comparison shopping to one that is more focused on community retail and services, for example, was really useful. I got a chance to take part in the important debate about what this change means ‘on the ground’, in terms of managing the offer, attracting the right type of businesses, changing opening hours and communicating all these changes in the community. Continue reading “Working together for stronger towns”→