In what was a clear fillip for town centres, on 17 May the Government announced the appointment of Mary Portas to carry out a project with the objective of helping to reduce the number of vacant shops in town centres.
As part of the announcement, the Prime Minister made an unequivocal statement about the important role that town centres play, saying that :
"The high street should be at the heart of every local community, bringing people together, providing essential services and creating jobs and investment, so it is vital that we do all that we can to ensure they thrive."
The number of vacant units is clearly an increasing problem for town centres, and is an inevitable outcome of a long term decline in footfall in the UK’s high streets - the ATCM-Springboard National High Street Index recorded a cumulative decline in footfall across the UK of 20% since 2007, and this April was the worst since 2008.
The ATCM-Springboard Vacancy Survey carried out in October 2010 identified that 12.7% of all units were vacant in town centres throughout the UK, but this ranged from a high of 18% in Northern Ireland to just 9.2% in Scotland. The update of this survey is underway, and the results will be made available at the ATCM Summer School at the end of June.
Understanding how a town centre is performing is the first step in the process of its recovery, and Springboard’s services focus on arming town centre practitioners with the requisite tools to plan and monitor what is always a long and complex process.
Delivering robust and consistent data is key, alongside benchmarks which enable a town to compare and contrast its performance with other towns and so establish whether any change is a local outcome or a product of more broadly based economic trends.
Springboard’s three services for town centres focus on exactly this:
• Automated footfall counting – tracking trends in customer activity, 24 hours a day 365 days a year
• High Street Sales Indexing – tracking a town’s sales trends on both a monthly and annual basis
• Milestone – monitoring and benchmarking a town’s overall performance
For more information as to how HTF Member, Springboard can prepare you for the attention that will now be focussed on town centre performance, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 01908 547858.