THE DECLINE OF OUR SHOPPING PLACES� A Summary of the Debate Held by rrboy



    A Summary of the Debate Held at Boots Head Office on 18th June with the PMA

    Mike Riddell of Modus Properties and Ken Gunn of FSP Consulting prompted the
    debate with some evidence in the shift away from the High Street towards
    Supermarkets and online channels.

    The purpose of the debate was to drive out the causes of the decline, and the
    cure if any.

    Causes of the Decline…

    It was felt that planning policy did not favour in-town by protecting it from the
    Supermarkets who are regarded as “stealing” sales - especially in non-food.

    Accessibility is regarded as a key issue as is the Town Centre environment
    generally, and how attractive it is relative to the competition. It is felt that
    Regional Shopping Centres are more able to sell themselves as attractive
    destinations since they have a centralised management system whereas the
    towns and cities do not.

    Other factors that were regarded as causing the decline were:-

    •   More general economic conditions.
    •   A cultural shift from junction to experience.
    •   Lack of range for the customer - driven by cost pressures.
    •   The cost of parking being prohibitive.


    The perception of security was regarded as a serious matter in town centres and
    in town centre car parks, and this bad customer experience for a shopping
    place is the first and last impressions of a town centre trip. National Car Parks are
    currently undertaking a review of their tariffs because of the drop in footfall
    throughout the UK. It was felt that the ageing demographic will accentuate the
    problem of security as customers will retreat to shopping destinations perceived
    as being safer.

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    A general sense of detachment by many members of the community also
    revealed a wider need for town centre stakeholders to galvanise around the
    community agenda and consider how LOCAL IDENTITY would help to drive a
    greater sense of community. The “clone town” point was raised and debated at
    some length.

    The Cure?

    “The experience needs to be much more distinctive - more local”.


        •   Shopping places should reflect a local brand and not THE OWNER OF THE
            SCHEME e.g. the Mall Fund.

        •   Creating a community atmosphere where people know and recognise
            each other was regarded as important as this helps to improve the
            perception of security.

        •   Better convenience was is regarded as very important to Town Centre
            Shopping Places - signage, accessibility and multi-channel should all be
            addressed as far as Shopping places are concerned.

        •   Local and organic is regarded as a consumer trend that needs to be
            explored further by Shopping place owners.

    Cost of Occupation

    It was felt by the meeting that the cost of rents, rates and service charge were
    outgrowing the rate of sales growth and adversely affecting margins. This is
    appreciated by Modus. It was agreed that action needs to be taken to deal
    with the fact costs of occupation are continuing to rise, even though many big
    schemes have many units on the market. The traditional shopping centre model
    is regarded as being unsustainable by many of those who attended the
    meeting. In fact, some retailers felt that it was cheaper to trade out of a poor
    location (until the end of the lease), rather than sell it since the prospects of a
    disposal were remote in this current economic climate. Lease length is definitely
    an issue for retailers and the current system is in danger of commoditising the
    High Street experience.

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    The existing Landlord / Tenant relationship is coming under severe pressure since
    their interests are not aligned. It was felt that while stakeholder collaboration
    around the customer’s needs was necessary to regain market share from the
    Supermarkets and other competitive channels, and that this would only be
    possible by working with Landlords / Tenants and other town centre stakeholders
    including the Local Authority and those in charge of transportation and transit
    generally such as the Transport Executive. The car park operators have a big
    part to play in the debate and should be engaged by both Landlords and
    Tenants to ensure that changes can be made to the current model which is
    clearly beginning to fail. More creative pricing on car parking tariffs should be
    explored so as to provide a more compelling and customer offer.

    Finally, it was agreed that it is absolutely necessary to integrate a town’s
    infrastructure in a much more cohesive fashion since the disjointed and
    uncoordinated approach gives customers little satisfaction in terms of
    experience. It was felt that towns and shopping places have been dumbed
    down to a “commodity” and that more imagination should be employed to the
    experience of shopping far more pleasurable for the consumer.

    It was agreed that it was necessary now more than ever, to collaborate around
    the customer. This collaboration needs to begin with the Landlords (Modus will
    represent Landlords) and Tenants (PMA can represent).

    Quotes from Ken Gunn of FSP, and Mike Riddell of Modus can be provided if

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