1. As the end of the century
approaches the changes in peoples' lifestyles, economic activity and land use planning which have been gathering pace for the last forty years are moving with such swiftness that it is now widely recognised that new
mechanisms are needed to promote the retention of the prosperity and character of town and city centres.
2. Many towns and cities in the UK have created management schemes. Some are
partnerships, others are largely local authority led and their remits vary widely. However, whatever their make-up, to be successful they are having to take a critical, consumer orientated view of the state of
central retail and business areas. Their new competitors, the purpose designed and managed out of town shopping centres have set new quality standards which shoppers recognise and enjoy. They also employ
sophisticated marketing techniques and substantial promotional programmes aimed at influencing consumer behaviour.
3. Additionally, decisions made in the next few years could have
fundamental effects on town and city centres. It now appears inevitable that policy makers and urban managers will be required to switch priorities from private to public transport and that tax/pricing strategies will
be used to bring about changes in consumer behaviour.
4. There is no question of turning the clock back. It is a fact of life that already 1/3rd
of all retail sales take place away from the high street and further competition is coming from new out-of-town venues, electronic shopping and factory outlets. The development of integrated transport policy will therefore need to be handled very carefully.
5. Sustaining a healthy flow of people in and out of town centres is essential to their vitality just as much as maintaining an unrestricted flow of blood to the heart is vital to the
well-being of every individual. The vital signs or key indicators of the vitality and viability of town centres need to be identified and monitored before taking action which could interfere with the flow of
people using them or promote the diversion of trade to alternative locations.
6. Now more than at any time this century there is a need for the creation of effective partnerships which cut
through the traditional public/private, tax collector/tax payer divisions and bring together the expertise and resources to address the issues to be faced in the next decade. If certain centres are already weak,
their vulnerability to change needs to be recognised and appropriate action taken to stimulate their revitalisation.
7. The purpose of this study is therefore to aid those concerned with
the future of town and city centres by providing information about:
- changes in patterns of spending in different parts of the country and types of centre.
- the quality of the environment in town centres.
- accessibility and the quality of services.
- the impact of marketing and promotion on store trading performance.
- the quality of town centre management (TCM).
8. The study is based on two sources of information:
- store takings data for over 3,000 stores provided by 29 national retailers, and
of local business people, organised principally by Chambers of Commerce, who made an assessment of conditions in 253 mainland UK centres.
9. The report presents an appraisal of the
performance of 253 centres. Graphs show a "snapshot" of the strengths, weaknesses and trading performance of individual centres which allows comparisons to be made with neighbours and competitors.