Diversity - 25 'vital and viable' priorities

Research from the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the Top 25 priorities that can influence high street vitality and viability. This resource introduces the 'Diversity' priority - why it matters, and what you can do about it.

Date added 17 August 2021
Last updated 17 August 2021

What are the 25 vital and viable priorities?

Research from the Institute of Place Management at Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the Top 25 priorities that can influence high street vitality and viability.

The framework was created by experts from a range of disciplines and other stakeholders to foster cross-disciplinary knowledge and broadening real-world understanding of the changing nature of the high street.

The 25 priorities are practically orientated and, given their ability to be controlled or influenced at a town level, are fairly internally focussed. For each of the priorities you will find an introduction to evidence that describes the priority, suggests what it covers, discusses how it might be implemented and the level of control associated with it.

Additionally, you will find suggestions of what the priority could mean for implementation during the COVID-19 recovery stage.


Factors included in 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







9th out of 25

4.09 out of 5

Highly Influential


19th out of 25

3.15 out of 4

Potentially controllable

25 Priorities

15th out of 25


High priority



Diversity is about facilitating a variety of offers that makes a place attractive to live and work in. Diversity represents a composite of multiple of the originally identified factors (e.g. retail offer; retailer representation; tenant mix; cross-shopping; and multifunctional vs monofunctional offer), indicating its strong impact on the vitality and viability of centres. Therefore, diversity refers to town centre offers and the importance around the shifting temporalities of these, as places are vibrant and viable at different times of the day, week and year, attracting different markets for a range of activities.


Why does it matter? (Influence)

Both a centre’s shopping provision and non-retail offer (e.g. bars and restaurants, public services such as education, greenspace, and leisure/entertainment facilities) are a key determinant of attracting people into the centre (Wrigley and Lambiri, 2015). A diverse mix of shops and non-retail opportunities in a centre is thus integral to ensuring its vitality and viability (Teller and Schnedlitz, 2012). It has been found that lack of variety in store type on offer in a centre can lead to customer dissatisfaction (Wrigley and Lambiri, 2015), indicating the need for diversity in a centre’s provision.

Surged by the COVID-19 pandemic, online retail now accounts for 32% of retail sales as per May 2020 (ONS, 2020). We are seeing the consolidation of multiple retailers into fewer centres and though independent retail remains active in many centres, the overall number of stores has been falling consistently for many years. So, it is important to understand what else a centre can offer apart from retail. In 1994, the Vital and Viable Town Centres report highlighted that centres are places of business and employment, the provision of services (education, health, public and private services), arts, culture, leisure and entertainment, as well as being places to live.

A diverse mixture of retail and non-retail offerings in a centre can result in economic benefits due to, for example, encouraging linked shopping trips and greater ‘dwell time’. Furthermore, it can extend the offer of the centre to a larger section of the community and can extend the economic base by offering employment and business opportunities.

What can you do about it? (Control)

Town centre strategies should look at each of the main attractions a centre has to offer: retail;
business and employment; service provision; arts, culture, leisure, entertainment; and housing. The
make-up, strength or otherwise of each needs to be assessed as part of repositioning a centre and the need and opportunities for each as part of the reinventing process. Looking at what is on offer in
neighbouring towns and in similar towns elsewhere will help identify whether you have the balance
right or what new development is required. As change happens, space that has previously been
dedicated to one use, perhaps particularly retail, may no longer be required. Planning policy needs to reflect the pace of change; but also, be based on creating a healthy and vibrant centre. Care must be taken that property values do not erode diversity to too great an extent (such as conversion of offices or workspace to residential). Attracting new users and occupiers requires a collaborative approach, working with the property industry, the local authority, potential end users, potentially transport providers, civic groups, and others. Though short-term opportunities may present themselves, diversity should be encouraged through a strategy for the centre as a whole.

Diversity and COVID-19

Local economies do not draw success from a single sector, but have a balanced offer meeting the needs of the catchment, visitors and workers. Centres can become vulnerable if they are too reliant on a single sector or offer and therefore, it can be important to use the changes that took place during lockdown to encourage new uses and diversity for the high street offer. Additionally, attempt to adapt to changing shopping habits, emerging and place specific needs and a focus on the sustainable and experiential. Talk to businesses about new customer demands you have uncovered (e.g. through surveys) and help them plan to meet them. You should also make plans to monitor change and explore how to encourage and support more local and independent businesses as innovation, churn and experimentation are important features of the town centre offer.

See also

Attractiveness; Experience; Functionality; Liveable; Retail offer


Office for National Statistics (ONS). (2020). “Internet sales as a percentage of total retail sales (ratio) (%)”. [Online] Available from: https://www.ons.gov.uk/businessindustryandtrade/retailindustry/timeseries/j4mc/drsi

Teller, C. and Schnedlitz, P. (2012), “Drivers of agglomeration effects in retailing: the shopping mall tenant’s perspective”, Journal of Marketing Management, Vol. 28 Nos 9/10, pp. 1043-1061.

Wrigley, N.& Lambiri, D. (2015). British High Streets: from Crisis to Recovery? A Comprehensive Review of the Evidence. Southampton; 2015. Available from: https://core.ac.uk/download/pdf/30341672.pdf