Since the 1980s Manchester Metropolitan University researchers have been studying change in the retail sector and retail locations such as town centres. They have produced over 300 academic articles, won major prizes and awards as well as undertaking a number of applied research projects for the private, public and third-sector.
After creating the Institute of Place Management in 2006, the group has gradually broadened its research interest into general place management, marketing and branding, influencing a range of UK policy and international perspectives, as well as launching the Journal of Place Management and Development.
Our Research Clusters
The IPM has recently redefined its research - grouping its approaches, outputs and interests into the following four 'clusters':
You can read more about each cluster below - or browse some of our individual research projects in the right hand menu, to find out more about their impact.
Researchers in this group have a long tradition of studying a diverse array of places; from spatial contexts that include city and town centres, high streets to ‘other places’ like squats, beaches and canals. The range of places, of scales and types allows the group to understand similarities – like fundamental factors that influence the vitality and viability of urban centres (which is a long-established focus of research endeavour within this cluster of activity, and now expanding to incorporate activities with district/secondary centres) – as well as the peculiarities and richness of understanding that comes from studying more neglected or unusual spaces – such as canals, squats and green spaces.
All places are special, and the group rejects the notion of ‘non-places’ as their research shows that airports, railway stations and shopping malls are places of residence, employment and meaning to many people.
Places are acknowledged as constantly in a state of ‘becoming’, in that they are socially constructed through human agency. Thus, places can be co-created by the social relations of those actors and stakeholders within and outwith. In turn, the different structures and processes by which places are managed and governed will be influenced by the configuration and actions of a range of stakeholders, which may exhibit varying degrees of (in)formality.
The study of the formal structures and processes of place governance is a long-standing research theme of the group, particularly in the context of towns and cities, where research into the concept of town centre management (and latterly business improvement districts) has been undertaken since the mid-1990s. More recently, our research has widened its scope to incorporate the study of the participation of citizens and other stakeholders in the development of policy and management/marketing activities.
Another theme in relation to co-creation in this context relates to the representation of places in the marketing and branding activities that they undertake to succeed in the increasingly intense spatial competition of residents, visitors and inward investment. This stream of research recognises that this representation activity is not just the domain of those actors with formal responsibility for governance, but has become much more democratised through the increasing use of information communication technology by an ever-broadening range of place stakeholders who are ever-more creative in its application in the development of narratives of their place.
It has been argued that place is a ‘lived’ concept, which needs to be experienced if it is to be understood. Research in the group investigates different aspects of the place experience. From the perspective of the individual’s experience, these include the multisensory apprehension of places, with particular emphasis on smell taste and sight – and in particular the impact of light and dark - and colour. Another well-established stream of interlinked research relates to the performative aspects of movement through place.
The management of place experience, in terms of events and other touristic activity, is another particular theme of this activity, as is the investigation of the effects of those factors - both internal and external to individuals - that impact on their place experience, both positively (such as nostalgia and affect), or negatively (such as litter and other incivilities).
The eclectic nature of this research endeavour – both in terms of topic and interdisciplinary, methodological approaches – reflects the kaleidoscopic, multi-faceted nature of this aspect of place.
Time and Place
Places are constantly changing and developing; thus there is an inevitable temporal dimension to their study, which can be manifest in numerous ways. For example, one theme of this cluster of activity highlights change over time, particularly in the context of those urban places largely devoted to retail activities, and in particular, the implications of the inherently temporal ‘pop-up’ concept (especially in a retail context) provides an ongoing focus of activity.
Some places – particularly heritage tourist destinations – will of course seek to capitalise upon their history for contemporary economic benefit. However, all places have a history, however mundane, which to those studying places might be as – if not more - interesting than well-known, and visited, tourist destinations. Research endeavour in this cluster of activity pays particular attention to what may be termed ‘neglected’ places – especially those that have been passed by in the onward progress of modernity, such as industrial ruins and other ‘perceived ‘wastelands’.
Temporality is also evident in everyday life through the various rhythms that occur within places, and the rhythm analysis concept informs another stream of research in this cluster of activity.