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What's happening in our town centres?  (1995 survey)

Sub-title: A survey of  46 town centres considering trading conditions and the impact of town centre management between 1990 - 1995.


1.     Town Centre Management activity has grown dramatically during the early 1990's as local authorities, businesses, property owners and government have recognised the need to work together to create attractive, vital and viable town centres. This period has been a difficult one for retailers and it is important that Town Centre Management (TCM) schemes are effective and well focused.

2.     The principal aims of TCM are to improve the quality of the urban experience and to encourage people to come into, and use and enjoy our town centres. If successful it can be expected that it will affect the retail mix and improve the viability of shops and other businesses. Although TCM is a relatively new activity in the UK a sufficient number of schemes have existed long enough for an initial evaluation of their impact to be made and in particular to look at whether trading conditions have improved in the centres in which they operate.

3.     This survey considers the performance of 323 stores in 46 towns, 17 of which have had TCM schemes operating for a number of years. Each TCM town was compared with 2 towns in the general vicinity which had not benefited from any significant TCM activity.

4.     The mechanisms of such an assessment stem from successful earlier work which investigated whether the Calderdale Inheritance Project's programme of promotion and environmental improvements had made a difference to trading conditions in the town centre of Halifax West Yorkshire. In that exercise seven national retailers co-operated in providing sales data for their stores in Halifax, Huddersfield and Bradford. The data enabled the percentage change in the gross takings achieved by each store over a six year period (1987-1993) to be compared. The results showed that in every case the Halifax stores had performed better than their counterparts in the nearby towns and in some instances by a very significant margin. The success of that work and the contacts established with retailers provided the basis for undertaking the current investigation.

5.     Data has been provided for twenty two separate fascias all of which are national high street plc's usually trading in prime town centre locations. The measure of performance taken for each store is the change in gross takings comparing what was achieved in 1990/1 with that for 1994/5 expressed as a percentage.

6.     To test if other factors apart from TCM had influenced this hard data, Boots The Chemists and Marks & Spencer arranged for their store managers to complete a questionnaire. They were asked to identify local factors which had affected store performance and also to make a critical assessment of the past operation of the local TCM scheme identifying deficiencies as well as those activities which managers felt had made most impact on trading conditions. The questionnaires were completed independently and without collaboration between the managers in each town.

Click to go to 1995 findings.