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1995 Main Findings.

1.  Regional differences in trading conditions evident from the 46 towns:

Trading conditions in many parts of the UK have been very difficult during the period of the survey as indicated by the following:

-    Over 60% of stores in the total sample failed to record sales growth above the rate of inflation during the period between 1990 and 1995 and actual takings in almost of stores were less in 1994/5 than in 1990/91.

-    Takings of stores in towns in the South East and to the North and West of London slumped. In these areas the percentage of stores not keeping pace with inflation ranged from 73% to as high as 96%.

By contrast the Scottish towns surveyed performed significantly better with takings in 2/3rds of stores rising faster than inflation.

There is evidence that the impact of Out-of-Town competition on store takings has been significantly underestimated. The South East was worst affected: in some towns, sales declined to minus 20% below inflation in nearly 50% of stores covered by the survey.

2.   Impact of Town Centre Management on store performance.

The survey shows that store managers believe that Town Centre Management (TCM) improved store performance and the data bears this out:

-    Boots and M&S store managers said that trading conditions would have been significantly worse in more than 2/3rds of the TCM towns if a management scheme had not been created.

-   Stores in 8 out of 14 TCM centres performed moderately or significantly better than those in neighbouring control towns.

-    71 % of stores in towns with an effective TCM scheme achieved higher takings than stores in the control towns.

-   Even in the few TCM towns that did not perform well there is evidence that in some TCM made a valuable contribution. One manager commented "Without the TCM scheme, trading conditions would have been dire".

The content of TCM programmes varies considerably from town to town but overall it appears that greatest priority is being given to improving the environment and streetscape, pedestrianisation and to promotional activities.

Most of the TCM centres which performed best gave priority to, and  reported no significant problems with access and parking. However looking at the 46 centres as a whole, store managers reported that store takings in 1/3rd of centres are being damaged by access problems and parking charges and controls.

The effectiveness of most of the TCM schemes is inhibited by lack of funding and a low level of support from local businesses:

-   only 3 TCM schemes had 'signed up' 50% of local businesses.

-  many schemes have less than 20% of traders supporting them.

3.   Conclusions and Implications.

Trading conditions in many parts of the UK have been very difficult during the period of the survey and there is clearly a need for effective, well focused Town Centre Management.

There is evidence that a number of TCM schemes have had success in minimising the effects of OOT and EOT development and in reinvigorating the town centre. The takings of stores in a significant proportion of TCM towns were better than their control counterparts and store managers reported that TCM was important even in towns which performed badly.

TCM effectiveness in many of the schemes is limited by lack of sign-up and commitment from local businesses.

Lack of funding means that key issues such as access and ease and cost of parking are not being addressed.

The survey shows that TCM is focusing local government and business attention on the need to jointly develop programmes which address town centre consumer issues.  However, to be effective, greater commitment and funding is required which will   enable the key issues to be tackled.

Click to go to 1995 report introduction.

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