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1997 Main Findings.

1.   The business climate was difficult for retailers in many parts of the country.

    -  Overall less than 50% of stores had sales growth above inflation and 31% had lower takings in 1995/6 than in 1991/2.

    -  Areas with the highest levels of stores above inflation were:  Northern (58%), South Coast Resorts (57%), Scotland (51%), Home Counties West  Reading/Guildford (51%).

    -  Areas with the highest levels of stores affected by declining takings were:  M2 Corridor (44%), Home Counties North - Oxford/Stevenage (43%), Home Counties South - Horsham/Tunbridge Wells (42%), Yorkshire (41%).

2.   Comparison of trading conditions in cities and larger centres.

    -  Birmingham, Bromley, Glasgow and Manchester enjoyed significantly better store performance than other centres in their respective regions.

    -  Stores in Belfast and Aberdeen also performed strongly.

    -  Sheffield and Leicester appear to have been affected by competition from OOT centres.

3.   Town centres - overall health check.

The majority of centres made good progress in improving the attractiveness and quality of the town centre experience between 1991 and 1996 ..........in over 80% of centres the extent and quality of traffic free areas was viewed as satisfactory or good;  CCTV was reported to have been introduced in many centres and security is now satisfactory or good in about 45% centres;  car park security is poor in only 22% of centres.

Significant deficiencies are highlighted in standards being achieved in vital services and facilities in many town centres:  only about of non-TCM centres are reported to be achieving good standards of street cleaning and dealing effectively with graffiti;  83% of centres are failing to achieve a good standard in respect of signing and information;  over 60% of centres do not have a good level of public transport provision; access for cars is poor in 45% of centres. 

Greater attention needs to be given to the quality of townscape: only 26% of centres reported that the quality and character of buildings in the centre was good and only 15% of non-TCM centres had high quality signs and shop fronts.

4.  Impact of Town Centre Management on town centre facilities and standards.

TCM schemes are making a difference to standards in all aspects of environmental services.   Managers report that in many instances the proportion of TCM centres achieving good standards is significantly higher than non-TCM centres e.g. for street cleaning, graffiti removal and enhancements such as hanging baskets which lift the quality of the environment.

Problems with car park security and access for the disabled are greater in non-TCM centres:   25% of non-TCM centres were reported to have a poor standard of car park security compared with only 14% of TCM centres; 18% of non-TCM centres have poor accessibility for disabled people compared with only 6% of TCM centres.

TCM also stimulates higher levels of joint marketing and promotion to attract trade:  20% more TCM than non-TCM centres stepped up their promotional activities in recent years; a  much higher proportion of TCM centres are working to attract customers through town promotion, with better signing, information and customer service.

On the other hand important weaknesses in many TCM programmes were revealed:  35% of TCM centres reported that the amount of car parking was poor compared with 24% of non-TCM centres;   TCM is not making a significant impact on management of parking: about 1/3rd of both TCM and non-TCM centres report short stay spaces occupied by shop and office workers;  only 58% of TCM centres had a significant amount of short stay shoppers' parking compared with 67% of non-TCM centres.

Pedestrianisation has benefited trade in many centres. However in numerous cases the disruption caused by paving work and the duration of construction damaged trade. It is essential that the working practices of local authorities and contractors are reviewed and modified so that the implementation of pedestnanisation schemes and the maintenance and upgrading of existing streets has minimum impact on customers and safeguards the viability of centres.

5.  Effectiveness of TCM schemes.

The development of effective TCM programmes is being inhibited by lack of information, low participation and under-funding:  lack of information or inadequate contact with the TCM scheme manager was mentioned by managers in businesses in 60% of the centres with TCM schemes;  1/3rd of schemes are affected by low participation of businesses in TCM  programme activities;  1/3rd of schemes report under-funding is a major deficiency.

Even though TCM has produced better quality environments and services, standards are still inadequate in respect of street and graffiti cleaning, signing, customer care and the provision of events and entertainment.

The Appendix contains a town by town appraisal by region which is an  important new resource for those concerned with the future well-being of town and city centres.  The tables can assist in understanding the relative performance of individual town centres and identifying good practice and also the deficiencies which will need to addressed in order to increase the attractiveness of centres.

Click to go to 1997 report introduction.

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