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The changing nature of retail in the UK brings many benefits to consumers but has significant consequences for communities and retailers themselves
In 2012, 54 retail companies failed, closing 3,951 stores between them, affecting 48,142 employees (Source: Centre for Retail Research). Academics at MMU have been studying and predicting large-scale change on the high street for nearly 30 years, but despite all this research, the ever-growing body of evidence from high street data providers as well as government-commissioned reports and extensive media coverage, it is clear that retailers and local actors and agencies responsible for managing change on the high street do not know how to respond effectively.
MMU has a successful track record of delivering interventions to support retail and location change, running relevant projects worth in excess of £8m over the past 10 years, therefore we are confident we have the knowledge, experience and reputation to help high street stakeholders to respond to change. High Street UK 2020, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, is our latest project.
The £250,000 study started in January 2014, focusing on the high streets of Alsager, Altrincham, Ballymena, Barnsley, Bristol, Congleton, Holmfirth, Market Rasen, Morley and Wrexham. (See press coverage.)
Firstly, we will synthesise the existing extensive academic research base of peer-reviewed studies of drivers of retail change/high street change at macro, meso and micro level through utilising an interdisciplinary expert review panel and a well-established ranking method.
This will enable an interactive tool to be developed which individual locations can use to forecast change on their high street. The first stage of the project will culminate in a series of local workshops in the ten partner locations bringing together retailers, local actors and agencies and academics to jointly explore and understand the nature of the retail challenge faced by that location.
Whilst the drivers of change are complex and cross discipline boundaries, the second stage of the project will focus on building a framework for managing change, from the management and marketing literature. The project will review and distil the evidence relating to place interventions and their implications, under the broad categories of ‘repositioning’, ‘reinventing’, ‘rebranding’ and ‘restructuring’. For example, a location may need to reposition and reinvent itself as a local centre rather than district centre — with the relevant retail/service mix, and all the corresponding rebranding and physical restructuring (e.g. changing the usage of some space from retail to residential).
National workshops on these major themes will be led by academic experts (who are all Visiting Researchers within this project) and attended by the partner high streets. These broad approaches will then be contextualised in partnership with ten user communities, facilitated by Simon Quin, a town/city centre manager with over 20 years experience, so those individual high streets identify an alternative, sustainable future for 2020 and an action plan for achieving that aim.
All the deliverables from the project will be available online, free of charge, through the Institute of Place Management, thereby disseminating this valuable knowledge to a much wider audience, such as the 400 towns currently involved in the Portas Pilot and associated schemes.
In addition, a special ‘knowledge exchange’ edition of the Journal of Place Management and Development will be published based on the four key intervention themes (repositioning, reinventing, rebranding and restructuring). Each of these themes will be explored through a case-study drawn from the partner locations.
The Principal Investigator for the project is Professor Cathy Parker. For more information, please contact her on firstname.lastname@example.org