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In 2014, the Institute of Place Management identified 201 factors that influence the vitality and viability of the high street or other traditional, retail agglomerations, like town centres.

in 2020, we updated this work as part of the development of the High Streets Task Force and identified 36 new factors that researchers had found also impact upon the performance of high streets/town centres. From crowd funding to hipster stores, the last five years have seen some changes on our high streets. All these factors will be influencing the decision making of local place leaders and partnerships, therefore all 237 factors have been reviewed by a panel of experts in place management to establish:

  1. How much influence each factor has on the vitality and viability of town centres/high streets? In other words, what matters?

  2. How much local control there is over each factor? In other words, what can you do about it?

By calculating a score for each factor, based on both influence and control this has enabled the High Streets Task Force to identify the Top 25 Priorities that local place leaders and place leaders should be focusing on, in their quest for vitality and viability and to have sustainable high streets that meet the needs of their catchment communities. As part of our method, we have grouped the top-rated factors into 25 priorities, presented in the Table below.                                                                               

Priority Component Factors
ACTIVITY* Opening hours; footfall; shopping hours; evening economy
RETAIL OFFER Retailer offer; retailer representation
VISION & STRATEGY Leadership; collaboration; area development strategies
EXPERIENCE Centre image; service quality; visitor satisfaction; familiarity; atmosphere
APPEARANCE Visual appearance; cleanliness; ground floor frontages
PLACE MANAGEMENT Centre management; shopping centre management; Town Centre Management (TCM); place management; Business Improvement Districts (BIDs)
NECESSITIES Car-parking; amenities; general facilities
Anchors* Presence of anchors - which give locations their basic character and signify importance
NON-RETAIL OFFER Attractions; entertainment; non-retail offer; leisure offer
MERCHANDISE Range/Quality of goods;assortments;merchandising
WALKING Walkability; pedestrianisation/flow; cross-shopping; linked trips; connectivity
PLACE MARKETING Centre marketing; marketing; orientation/flow
NETWORKS & PARTNERSHIPS WITH COUNCIL Networking; partnerships; community leadership; retail/tenant trust; tenant/manager relations; strategic alliances; centre empowerment; stakeholder power; engagement
ACCESSIBLE  Convenience; accessibility
DIVERSITY Range/quality of shops; tenant mix; tenant variety; availability of alternative formats; store characteristics; comparison/convenience; chain vs independent; supermarket impact; retail diversity; retail choice
ATTRACTIVENESS Sales/turnover; place attractiveness; vacancy rates; attractiveness; retail spend; customer/catchment views; Construction of out-of-town centre
MARKETS* Traditional markets; street trading
RECREATIONAL SPACE Recreational areas; public space; open space
BARRIERS TO ENTRY Barriers to entry; landlords
Safety/Crime A centre KPI measuring perceptions or actual crime including shoplifting
ADAPTABILITY Retail flexibility; retail fragmentation; flexibility; store/centre design; retail unit size; store development; rents turnover
LIVEABLE Multi/mono-functional; liveability; personal services; mixed use
REDEVELOPMENT PLANS* Planning blight; regeneration
Functionality*  The degree to which a centre fulfils a role – e.g. service centre, employment centre, residential centre, tourist centre
INNOVATION* Opportunities to experiment; retail Innovation

Interpreting the table

First, priorities in CAPITALS represent more than one factor. Those in lower case represent a single factor.

Second, the nearer the top of the table the higher the priority score, however this does not necessarily mean all towns/high streets need to focus on ACTIVITY before they tackle INNOVATION. Rather, these 25 Priorities are a framework by which place leaders can assess the current performance of their high street/town centre. The results will enable them to diagnose which priorities are likely to be have the most impact – and then act through making an appropriate intervention. It is then important to evaluate, to know if interventions work (or not). 

Finally, the priorities that are marked with an asterisk in the table are either new or amended for 2019. ACTIVITY now includes footfall as it is important to measure activity on the street, not just consider when the business and other services are open. ANCHORS now refer to universities, hospitals, anything that is attracting a significant amount of people to a location – not just anchor stores.

NON-RETAIL OFFER is a new priority for 2019. Previously, any part of a town’s offer that wasn’t retail was included in DIVERSITY – but as the non-retail offer becomes more important to many high streets then it is becomes as a priority in its own right.  

MARKETS are also new for 2019. They are our oldest form of collective retailing, however, the transformation of markets into food halls and other ways in which markets are reinventing demonstrates how they are now improving the vitality and viability of many towns. REDEVELOPMENT PLANS are another new priority for 2019. Unfortunately, some town centre regeneration has been misguided and, after the financial crash, other plans have stalled, leading to situations of planning blight, both of which have a negative impact on town centres and high streets.

FUNCTIONALITY is another new priority for 2019. Functionality refers to the various purposes that towns serve. In some locations certain functions dominate but others have more of a multifunctional economy. Research has demonstrated that understanding these functions is important before visions, strategies and other interventions are planned2.

Finally, INNOVATION, or opportunities to experiment, is recognised as a priority in 2019.  Successful transformation is not just dependent on traditional investment and development, it can also be kick-started by pop-up shops, festivals, events, and community use of redundant retail space. The message here is that place leaders and partnerships need to be creative and experiment.

Find out more

You can find more information on how to apply the factors at the High Streets Task Force website.

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