Sibenik, Croatia. 5th October 2016

10 medium-sized cities from 9 EU countries were gathered in Sibenik, Croatia, today to look at how they should respond to the ever changing retail environment. The group are all participants in RetaiLink, an URBACT supported project, which aims to foster retail revitalization in the cities. The city representatives included BID and Town Centre Managers, local authority members and officers, and local retailers from many of the locations.

The meeting was the second transnational event of the 30 month programme and heard from experts Tom Kikkert, a retail consultant from The Netherlands, who spoke about identity as a driver for value creation; Guy Douglas and Xav Anderson from Clockwork City in the UK who described the process involved in high street digitalisation strategies, and IPM Director Simon Quin who looked at how cities should respond to new retail models.

Simon explored how the retail environment is changing, looking at societal, technological and policy trends and shared the findings of the High Street UK 2020 research project that the Institute undertook. This had been part funded by ESRC. As well as talking about the 25 priorities for town/city centre vitality and viability, Simon also described the key findings relating to footfall signatures that identify different kinds of centres.

The public and private sector delegates from the ten cities (Igualada, Spain (the Lead Partner); Basingstoke, UK; Bistrita, Romania; Fermo, Italy; Hengelo, The Netherlands; Hoogeveen, The Netherlands; Liberec, Czech Republic; Pecs, Hungary; Romans, France; Sibenik, Croatia) worked together to estimate footfall signatures for their locations, using the HSUK2020 examples. The retailers from the individual cities were able to contribute to this process through knowledge of variations in their turnover, though as they recognised, the two do not necessarily follow. All thought the process was useful and somewhat unexpectedly examples were found of cities that saw themselves as comparison centres, speciality centres, convenience/community centres and a holiday town as well as cities that thought they may be hybrids between comparison and convenience/community, between comparison and speciality, and between convenience/community and speciality. None of the cities undertook regular footfall counts as yet.

As well as sessions led by the experts, each city was able to give updates on some of the individual actions they are taking to work more closely with retailers, though they all acknowledged the difficulties they had encountered, even when services were being provided free of charge.

The Lead Expert for the project, Mirieia Sanabria, programmed the event which continues tomorrow. We will have further updates from this useful project as it proceeds.