By Nikos Ntounis, Regine Sonderland Saga, Maria Loronõ-Leturiondo, Tom Hindmarch and Cathy Parker
passing day we are witnessing the unprecedented effects of COVID-19 on the
heart of our cities and towns, as the boundless pandemic is altering – and
potentially displacing – their social and economic role. In the UK, as in other
countries, the implementation of strict public health measures means that the
majority of service-based and non-food retail, hospitality and leisure business
premises remain closed to reduce social contact
(MHCLG, 2020). Footfall, a key metric in
the management of town centres and other commercial areas, has declined since
the lockdown was announced on the 23rd of March. Yesterday (31st of March)
footfall was down 81.4% compared to the same period last year (Springboard, 2020).
The relatively short period of disruption has already triggered the
first wave of store closures (Laura Ashley, BrightHouse, Carluccio’s), impacting
first on the most vulnerable businesses, whose position was fragile even before
the scale of the pandemic and the unprecedented public health response will
mean much more disturbance is yet to come.
Macroeconomic estimates suggest that the economic shock of COVID-19 will
be around 10% of global GDP. This is five times more than the credit and
liquidity problems that caused the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 (Milne,
2020). A massive number of bankruptcies will likely follow, which will put at
risk many jobs and have a significant impact on the attractiveness of many of
our towns and cities. Not only will their offer be reduced as less businesses
come back to our town centres, post-COVID-19 – but there may be less demand for
these businesses in the future. Prolonged lockdown can fundamentally change
consumer behaviour, as people become dependent on having products delivered to
their home. A survey by analyst Retail Economics of 2,000 consumers, quoted in
The Guardian, found that two-thirds of shoppers said they had switched to purchasing
products online that they have always previously purchased in-store (Inman,
2020). But the increasingly multifunctional town/city is not only at risk of
being obsolescent to shoppers. People used to exercise in their front room, may
not go back to the gym; employees who like working from home may not return to
the office; friends accustomed to socialising online may no longer pop down the
The speed of change in retail is having a real impact on places. From ghost malls to dark stores in North America and the headline-hitting town centre vacancy across much of Europe, it is easy to be persuaded that we are nearing the end of bricks and mortar retail. Those of us working in place management know this is not the case but there are plenty of recent examples of how once a story gets a hold, the prophecy becomes self-fulfilling. This is why the Institute welcomed the re-emergence of the Great British High Street Awards. Promoted by the UK Government at Ministerial level and with strong backing from principal sponsor Visa, the initiative had sufficient weight to gain media attention and make its own headlines over an extended period, culminating in an award ceremony on 15 November.
Last week in The Netherlands, some 250 place management practitioners and policy makers from across Europe gathered to discuss the future of retail in medium size city centres. In a snap survey of the audience, over half said the retail sector in their town was “troublesome” whilst just 12% described it as “booming”. It is in The Netherlands, however, that some interesting responses are happening.
The event heard from Mona Keijzer, State Secretary of Economic Affairs in The Netherlands, who noted that they have a national retail strategy, the only country in the EU that does so. It also heard from Henk Brink, from the province of Drenthe on how the province is allocating one third of funding to match spending by local authorities and private sector investment to revitalise town and city centres.
‘Pop-up’ is an increasingly important aspect of current retail activity, and indeed, it has been argued that the boundaries between pop-up and the more traditional retailing found in fixed store formats is becoming increasingly blurred. Whilst it can essentially be defined in terms of its temporary and ephemeral nature, pop-up retailing can also provide a very effective experiential in-store environment facilitating consumer-brand engagement, and also promote a brand or product line, to create a ‘buzz’ (all of which, it is hoped, conveys a sense of urgency to stimulate consumers’ behaviour). Indeed, the use of pop-up can be motivated by marketing communication imperatives as much as by actually making sales – although, of course, pop-up shops (although not necessarily termed as such) have long been used for selling goods where demand is very seasonal (e.g. Halloween, Christmas), making the occupation of permanent premises uneconomic. Continue reading “Why place managers should know about pop-up retailing”→
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.
Phil, a Fellow of the Institute of Place Management, is a senior executive and non-executive director within consumer focussed environments. He has a strong commercial and business development background across a diverse retail sector portfolio that is connected by his passion for consumer engagement and building communities on the high street. He possesses the business acumen and gravitas of an exceptional brand ambassador who, effectively and skilfully, collaborates across stakeholders. Phil started his retail career at an independent Liverpool department store, before progressing to Managing Director level at international businesses serving SMEs, and is aware of digitalization and personalization in retailing today. He gained an MBA in retail at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling and has been awarded the honorary title of Visiting Research Fellow by the University of Chester for his contribution on retail and business agendas. Phil is at the final stage of completing the Doctor of Business Administration (DBA) programme at Chester Business School. He is the retail sector specialist on the board of Cheshire West & North Wales Chamber of Commerce. Continue reading “Meet the IPM: Interview with Phil Smith”→
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”→
Gary Warnaby graduated in history from the University of Newcastle in 1983. After completing postgraduate studies in marketing, he spent a few years in stores management with BHS plc in a variety of locations across the UK before settling down into higher education in 1991. Since then, he has worked at the Manchester Metropolitan University Business School, the universities of Salford and Liverpool, and is currently Professor of Marketing in the School of Materials at The University of Manchester (although he is returning to MMU Business School in August 2016).
His research interests focus on retailing and the marketing of places, with a particular emphasis on the urban context. He has published on these topics in a range of journals in both the business/management and geography disciplines. His teaching focuses on strategic aspects of retailing as well as more general marketing management.
Also presenting the future of transport for Harrogate was Cllr Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire County Council and Cllr Rebecca Burnett, Harrogate Borough Council, provided an update on the Harrogate town centre strategy & masterplan.
With more retail sales moving on-line and out-of-town then traditional catchment areas or numbers may need updating. In fact, in HSUK2020, Millington, Ntounis, Parker and Quin (2015) found that local resident population was a better predictor of footfall in smaller locations than catchment statistics. We like footfall as a measure as it concentrates on actual attractiveness (the number of people a retail centre actually attracts) rather than ‘potential’ attractiveness (catchment).
We will develop an improvement on existing methods of identifying catchment by providing a new method of predicting footfall (consisting, initially, of those components identified in HSUK2020, i.e., geographical location, location of nearest stronger centre, resident population, employment, tourism and vacancy rates). Continue reading “Can we provide more accurate predictors of footfall than catchment alone?”→