Evolving high streets: resilience and reinvention

This 2014 collection of papers explore how retail trends are impacting high streets and town centres, after the 2008 economic crisis. The articles cover high street policy; secondary retail centres; convenience culture; night-time economy; consumer experience; digital trends and e-resilience; and data usage. Insights can be taken around how town centres and high streets can transform to deal with ongoing challenges and changes.

Date added 5 October 2021
Last updated 5 October 2021

This collection of papers explore how ongoing retail trends are impacting high streets and town centres, covering a number of topics - as summarised below - and providing insight into how town centres and high streets might evolve in the future.

Paper 1: High Streets and town centres policy – Anne Findlay and Leigh Sparks

  • Retailing traditionally ignored at national policy level, with a focus on land-use planning.
  • The need for and type of retail space required is changing.
  • Policy needs to focus on making town centres places where people can live, work, play, and be proud of.

Paper 2: Secondary retail during economic crisis and austerity – Anne Findlay and Leigh Sparks

  • Secondary centres are often neglected in retail research (i.e. local neighbourhood centres).
  • They have generally not been as negatively impacted by the 2008 recession and broader structural changes in retail.
  • The community ‘glue’ giving these centres local identity can foster their resilience.

Paper 3: Convenience culture and the evolving high street – Neil Wrigley and Dionysia Lambiri

  • We are seeing an ongoing rise in convenience (grocery) retail within the UK.
  • Whilst online shopping has been rising, so has the demand for convenience retail at a local neighbourhood level.
  • The shift to convenience culture needs to be considered in measuring benefits of town centre first policies.

Paper 4: A helping hand? The contribution of the night-time economy to the evolving high street – Marion Roberts

  • There are knowledge gaps around the value of the night-time economy to centres.
  • Policy-makers face the challenge of striking a balance between different night-time activities and user groups to foster inclusivity.
  • There are opportunities to innovate through converting vacant shops into things like café-bars and micro-pubs.

Paper 5: Managing town centres during the crisis: from retail-focussed management to the experience economy and beyond – Andres Coca-Stefaniak and Shanaaz Carroll

  • Consumers expect more than functionality from town centres – their focus is increasingly on the overall quality of the centre experience.
  • Town centre managers play a crucial role in transforming town centres.
  • More research is needed on the role of town centre management in improving competitiveness and liveability of town centres.

Paper 6: The digital challenge for the high street: insights from Europe – Jesse Weltevreden

  • There are several key stages in the evolution of online shopping: the ‘pioneering phase’ (1994-1999) with negligible online shopping; ‘universal internet access’ (1999-2004); ‘expansion of online shopping’ (2004-2009); and ‘fully-fledged sales channel and hyper-connectivity’ (2009-2014).
  • Despite growth in online shopping, physical stores are not superfluous.
  • There will be an ongoing blurring of physical and digital retail environments.

Paper 7: The consumer journey through the high street in the digital era – Cathy Hart and Angus Laing

  • In the backdrop of digital growth, a more holistic appreciation of the total high street experience is needed.
  • Depth of consumer data is important in understanding high street experience – including consumer touch points (memorable interactions – functional and experiential) and consumer journeys (routes through physical and digital spaces).
  • Consumers visit town centres and high streets to experience emotions and enjoyment, and not just for functional purposes.

Paper 8: The e-resilience of UK town centres – Alex Singleton and Les Dolega

  • The concept of e-resilience concerns the vulnerability of high streets to the growth in online retailing.
  • Some retail centres will be more vulnerable to the impact of online shopping than others who possess greater levels of e-resilience (e.g. centres with a healthy mix of convenience retail and community services).
  • Data and evidence is crucial in informing evidence-based decisions around building greater e-resilience.

Paper 9: Data constraints and the high street crisis – Serena Page

  • Data constraints lead to understandings of high street change sometimes being based on assumptions rather than evidence.
  • There are inequalities in terms of who can access high street data.
  • It is vital to develop a robust and accessible data source on high street performance.