Repositioning the high street: evidence and reflection from the UK
During the IPM’s High Street UK 2020 project, a strategic framework for place regeneration - the ‘4Rs framework’ - was developed. Repositioning is the regeneration strategy discussed in this paper. It involves understanding data and trends to build collective visions and forward-looking strategies to meet catchment needs.
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 repositioning. Repositioning strategies involve analysing and understanding data (e.g. footfall) and trends (e.g. consumer behaviour) to build collective visions and forward-looking strategies to meet catchment needs, and differentiate the centre from other places. They revolve around four key areas: liveability (repositioning centres as places to live); activity (repositioning the centre’s offer, services, and activities); connectivity (repositioning transport links and centre accessibility); and demographic change (repositioning centre offer to meet needs of a changing catchment). The paper provides examples of repositioning strategies from project partner towns across the UK. It concludes with recommendations regarding repositioning strategies, based on insights gained from working with the 10 UK towns in the project. First, regularly sharing available data between a range of invested place stakeholders is vital. Second, repositioning strategies should be based on an understanding of data, dynamic, and forward-thinking.