How to reinvent the High Street: evidence from the HS2020
During the IPM’s High Street UK 2020 project, a strategic framework for place regeneration - the ‘4Rs framework’ - was developed. Reinventing is the regeneration strategy discussed in this paper. It involves understanding how to maintain a centre’s relevance for the catchment, as well as adapting to meet changing needs of current and future users.
UK high streets and town centres are facing significant challenges due to pressures of out-of-town retailing, the rise in online shopping, and changes in consumer behaviour. However, local place leaders do not always know how to effectively respond to such changes to regenerate high streets and town centres. The High Street UK 2020 (HSUK2020) project, led by the Institute of Place Management, sought to bring fragmented and often inaccessible academic knowledge directly to UK high streets to improve their vitality and viability. As part of this project, a team of place experts developed a strategic framework for place regeneration - the ‘4Rs framework’ - which includes: repositioning, reinventing, rebranding, and restructuring. This paper focuses on how local place stakeholders can respond to high street decline through a strategy of reinventing. Reinventing strategies involve understanding the needs of the catchment, assessing whether the centre offer meets these needs, and adapting the offer if necessary to reinvigorate the centre. However, place reinvention is also a process of acknowledging a rapidly evolving environment, and anticipating future changes in user expectations and requirements. The article provides reinventing strategy examples from project partner towns across the UK, and argues that high street and town centre change is not necessarily a negative thing if places remain dynamic, flexible, and adaptable. Reinventing strategies are ongoing and can become a proactive process where a centre anticipates change and adapts, rather than waiting for change to happen.