many parts of the UK, Town Centre Management (TCM) schemes have become the focus for joint public/private sector co-operation to improve the vitality and viability of town centres. By the end of 1996 the number of TCM
schemes operating in the UK had risen to about 220. Apart from general concerns such as the need to counter external competition and to raise standards of town centre services, the priorities of schemes have generally
been determined on the basis of local perceptions of issues and needs e.g. clean and safe, access and parking.
2. As more schemes come into being it is likely that some will be more
successful than others and as a result the content of their business plans will come under closer scrutiny. Schemes must demonstrate that they are achieving results which safeguard or strengthen the vitality and
viability of centres. Failure to identify and address the real issues which are affecting trading conditions is likely to lead to ineffective programmes, waste of scarce resources and a loss of confidence in the TCM
process. There is therefore a need for management information which can be used to formulate effective TCM strategies. Some of this can be generated locally through the monitoring of activities but there is also a need
for an overview of what is happening regionally and nationally in order to provide benchmarks against which performance can be judged.
3. This study has two basic objectives:
(i) to gather information from which the impact of TCM activities in the UK in recent years can be assessed.
(ii) to provide information relating to local conditions and store performance to
help those concerned with the planning, development and management of town centres deal with the complex issues and priorities involved.
4. The study reviews the performance of 1,650
stores in 140 town and city centres in England, Scotland, Wales plus Belfast. It uses confidential sales performance data obtained from 26 companies to compare the performance of these centres. This is
complemented by a qualitative survey looking at the standards of services and facilities and other local factors that may have had a bearing on the vitality of individual centres. The information on local
conditions was obtained from local managers of stores owned by the Sears Group and Boots the Chemists together with a NatWest manager (supplemented where necessary by Marks & Spencer).
5. The data supplied by the 26 national multiples relates to the change in gross takings over two time periods. The first period compares the gross takings achieved in 1991/2 with 1995/6 and the second
compares the gross takings achieved in 1994/5 with 1995/6. This allows the performance of towns to be compared over a four year period and also to identify whether the recent trend is positive or negative.
6. The report is divided into three sections:
Part 1 provides a broad overview of trading conditions looking at the increases and decreases in store takings that occurred in different
parts of the UK between 1991 and 1996 and at the comparative performance of cities and larger centres.
Part 2 presents a critical analysis of the services and facilities in TCM and non-TCM centres and
assesses, in overall terms, whether the existence of TCM schemes is making an observable difference to conditions in town centres.
Part 3 provides detailed information on how centres performed in each region both in
terms of viability (i.e. percentage change in store takings recorded) and managers' assessment of the standards of services and facilities. The information has been provided in a form which can be used at the local
level to identify strengths and weaknesses of centres and help determine future priorities.