Tag Archives: regeneration

Hope you had a good Christmas. Try not to think about the kipper season.

Preliminary sales results from the big boys have been poor at best. The ‘Big Four’ supermarkets have been fighting off the Germans – Aldi and Lidl – so margins remained wafer-thin. The high street fashion retailers were hammered by unseasonably warm weather and Black Friday never really took off. Biggies like H&M and Next started their sales early (which is a bit worrying given the low rate of inflation and rising disposable incomes). Drastic discounting did not draw in the crowds as expected so when the full Christmas sales results are announced it will be interesting to see the proportion which transferred to online or simply disappeared to online competition. Amazon and Google announced amazing turnover figures for Black Friday with durables, white goods and presents only a click away. Shoppers were still seen browsing High Street shops up to Christmas Eve but more for price-comparison with online and/or to sniff out last-minute bargains. Conversion to sales seems to have been poor with many shoppers preferring to sit in front of their PC with a pile of mince pies.

Lower High Street footfall means lower Market turnover

You might have hoped this would not affect your market but I’m sorry to say that doesn’t appear to be the case. Stallholders do not have the sky-high rents and rates of a ‘bricks ‘n mortar’ high street retailer so are still able to offer real bargains BUT they remain overwhelmingly reliant on footfall. Lower high street footfall means lower market turnover which seems to have affected seasonal Christmas markets as much as weekday general markets. Meat, poultry and fruit & veg. seems to have stood up reasonably well but European traders who came to the UK in search of a strong currency and better sales turnover went home disappointed. Sales turnover on Christmas markets seems to have fallen by at least a quarter.

Those with a decent online presence have definitely held their ground

So who were the real winners? Those with a decent online presence have definitely held their ground. Those selling craft and luxury goods only have done well. My friend trained as saddlemaker in Walsall but threw in that towel to make wallets, belts, dog collars and handbags and only sells online. His sales through Etsy, Ebay, Facebook and website are better then ever. He’s not cheap but works on the theory that no girl can ever be too thin or own too many handbags or pairs of shoes. He took a big gamble and doubled his stock from July but had a cracking good Christmas since. His secrets are low overheads, adding value by product skills and selling online 24/7.

Thank heavens the markets industry is so innovative and resilient

So where does this leave the markets industry? The impact of online retailing and home delivery by DHL is as profound as the introduction of self-service supermarkets was to the corner shop. Thank heavens the markets industry is so innovative and resilient. Sadly, the Chancelllor’s Autumn statement didn’t contain any real goodies for small businesses to reinvest in and develop themselves. But it did confirm your market authority’s worst fears – a further 29% in spending cuts over the next 5 years. The easy cuts have been made already so you can anticipate services like care for the elderly taking priority. Loss-making ‘discretionary’ services like markets are in line for disposal in line with the ‘Big Society’ agenda promoted by David Cameron.

It would be interesting to know how many stallholders have half-embraced online retailing

It would be interesting to know how many Stallholders have HALF-embraced online retailing, but not the right half. Be honest with yourself and admit whether you’ve gone online because you’re too busy selling and don’t have time to sit in the carpark queue at Bluewater (6 hours) or Silverburn (3 hours). Maybe next year you should plan ahead and go online then treat yourself with a post-Christmas weekend holiday in Eastern Europe. Many of their Christmas markets stay open until the Orthodox Christmas on 6th January.

A Christmas when you don’t have to work – whoopee!

The Stag and Hounds, in Bristol’s Old Market, prides itself on being one of the city’s top music pubs. It has another claim to fame that most regulars won’t know: it was home to one of England’s longest-lived Piepowder Courts.

Piepowder Courts (from the French pieds poudres, or ‘dusty feet’) were established in mediaeval times to oversee traditional markets

Piepowder Courts (from the French pieds poudres, or ‘dusty feet’) were established in mediaeval times to oversee traditional markets, dispensing summary justice to pickpockets, thieves and cheating travelling merchants. Bristol’s Piepowder Court continued to sit until 1870.

Sometimes, though, the cursory consideration of a few local dignitaries was not enough to keep the markets and fairs running smoothly. In Nottingham the city’s annual Goose Fair, a huge event that would draw crowds from across the midlands, became the scene of the famous Cheese Riot of 1766.

Thomas Bailey’s Annals of Nottinghamshire, published in 1852, describes how irate crowds ran amok after complaints that traders were overcharging for cheese, grabbing cheeses from the stalls and rolling them down the streets. ‘The mayor, whilst endeavouring to quell the disturbance, was knocked down by a cheese, hurled at him by one of the mob, and severely stunned,’ Bailey recounts.

These days the equivalent of the cheese riot is Black Friday in Tesco

I came across the story of the great cheese riot while researching my book, How to Save Our Town Centres. Since then more than one reader has suggested a re-enactment of this historic occasion. Others might argue that these days the equivalent of the cheese riot is Black Friday in Tesco, while traditional markets have become a haven of decorum.

There are other conflicts over our markets, though, that should worry us more. Some are over the cost of trading and the rents demanded by private (or local authority) owners: Brixton and Oxford have both seen disputes over rents in recent years. The closure of Sheffield’s Castle Market and its relocation to a new building on the other side of the city centre has attracted complaints that both traders and traditional customers are being priced out.

What is at stake is not just the markets themselves but the character and vitality of our town and city centres

What is at stake is not just the markets themselves but the character and vitality of our town and city centres. Go to Bury in Lancashire, home of the black pudding, and you’ll see one of the most successful traditional markets in England. Every year up to 1,500 coachloads of visitors descend on this former mill town to sample the wares at nearly 400 stalls. Market traders boast that you can get everything you need from cradle to grave. There’s even a man who’ll do your headstone.

But at the other end of town, the new Rock shopping centre is stretching Bury’s retail core, offering a glass-and-concrete panorama of Marks & Spencer and Superdry, Costa Coffee and River Island. In between, at the 1990s Mill Gate shopping centre – itself a replacement for a 1960s precinct – every other shop is a discount store and there’s an acne of ‘to let’ signs.

Planners across the UK have swallowed the myth of ‘retail-led regeneration’

Bury’s planners, it would seem, like planners across the UK, have swallowed the myth of ‘retail-led regeneration’, imagining that shiny new shopping centres will revive their towns. In the process the traditional markets are often left behind, physically distanced from the new developments and reduced to either a throwback to a bygone age or a curiosity, providing a retail diversion for people with plenty of disposable income and time on their hands.

High-end retailers concentrate their brands in prime locations and struggling locations become dominated by pound shops and charity shops

Places that used to be social levellers, providing something for everyone and where well-off and hard-up would rub shoulders and exchange banter, are now becoming socially polarised. At the same time an economic segregation is dividing successful from unsuccessful towns, as high-end retailers concentrate their brands in prime locations and struggling locations become dominated by pound shops and charity shops: a lifeline to the hard-pressed, but a signifier of failure to investors and planners.

We won’t get town centres right until we start thinking about what creates good places, not just about how retail can work better

In my book I argue that we won’t get town centres right until we start thinking about what creates good places, not just about how retail can work better. To think about placemaking demands an understanding of how places can work for everyone, not just those with money to spend. I discuss how we can create places to be, not just places to buy.

There are two ways in which we can think of ‘the market’ in that context. One is as a gathering place: a place of trade, but most of all a space for relationships and connections. I use the example of the ancient Greek agora: buying and selling was just part of the mix. It was where justice was done, athletic contests were held, children were schooled and religion was practiced. As the urban historian Lewis Mumford commented, it was ‘above all a place for palaver’.

The other way of thinking about the market is purely as an economic construct: a place where people act according to narrow financial self-interest and where value is equated only with rates of return and capital gains. This view of the market prizes and privileges development-led ‘investment’ and focuses on the big numbers of jobs generated in construction and retail without considering what is being displaced. And inevitably, the capital and revenue flows accrue to those with the wherewithal to join in a game in which the price of entry is increasingly high.

Questioning and challenging such ideas of investment is not anti-business. What it does is to highlight that there are different ways of doing business, different views of value within business communities, and different ways of envisaging what it means to thrive and prosper. How to Save Our Town Centres aims to bring some of those questions to the surface.


 

How to Save Our Town CentresHow to Save Our Town Centres is published by Policy Press and available at www.policypress.co.uk or www.urbanpollinators.co.uk. To contact Julian Dobson about workshops or speaking engagements email julian@urbanpollinators.co.uk

 

 

 

 

 

Quarterbridge would like to thank Julian Dobson for so generously contributing this article.

 

Colchester market

Two years ago Quarterbridge was appointed by Colchester Borough Council to undertake a complete study of the town’s Charter Market, incorporating assessments of location and operational management, providing a complete overview and to make recommendations on how the Council could improve the market.

Key recommendations included reunification of a disjointed market and relocation to a prime footfall area

Our report delivered several recommendations, key amongst them was the reunification of the currently disjointed market and relocation to the prime footfall area of Colchester High Street. Whilst we undertake this type of report several times a year, this particular project was made that bit more interesting and was particularly close to our heart as our head office is based in Colchester.

The relocation is now proceeding with the launch of the New Charter Market in Spring

Colchester Borough Council understand the importance of the market to the town and since the presentation of our report we have worked closely with the council to assist in making our joint goals of a relocated, re-energised and much improved new Charter Market, come to fruition. Through budget allocated as part of the New Homes Bonus, the relocation is now proceeding with the launch of the New Charter Market in Spring this year. We have provided detailed on-going assistance on financial planning, the tender process for new stalls and ground anchors, trader liaison, operational documentation and guidance.

‘The new Colchester Market will create a strong focal point for the town, with a more modern feel’

Councillor Nick Barlow, Portfolio Holder for Street and Waste Services said: “Colchester has a strong market tradition and we know other towns such as Lincoln and Bury have experienced a positive impact on the reputation of their towns. The new Colchester Market will create a strong focal point for the town, with a more modern feel. The introduction of electricity will be a huge boost for existing stallholders and will allow the market to attract a wider range of stalls moving forward. These changes also unlock the potential for evening markets in the future.”

We look forward to continuing to work with the excellent team at Colchester Borough Council and enjoying the new market… right on our doorstep!

News-Mary Portas Report

Following December’s publication of Mary Portas’ ‘Review into the future of our High Streets’ the Government was remarkably quick off the mark implementing one of her key recommendations – establishing pilot ‘Town Team’ schemes. A formal response to all 28 recommendations is due soon but in the meantime Grant Shapps, Minister for Housing and Local Government at the DCLG unexpectedly stumped up enough cash for a competition to select 12 pilot towns, with each being given some £100,000 of funding to test the ‘proof of concept’.

For our High Streets to survive they need to offer something new and exciting.

On 4th February he announced the competition on YouTube (no less) from Hatfield Town Centre.’Our High streets have faced stiff competition from Internet shopping and out-of-town shopping’ he declared, in front of a very unexciting High Street. ‘We are leaving them underused, unloved and under-valued. The internet is not going to go away and so for our High Streets to survive they need to offer something new and exciting’.

Was there a note of nervousness in his voice? Maybe, as he might have been warned about redheads by his mother. In any event Ms Portas was in like Flynn with her response: ‘I hope my Review has inspired people with another vision of tomorrow where our High Streets are re-imagined as destinations for socializing, culture, well being and learning as well as shopping. I want the first twelve Town Teams to challenge the old ways of working, experiment, take risks and reaffirm their place at the heart of a community. A place we all want to be and can be proud of’.

Online sales were creating High Street vacancies long before the recession.

The Portas review is a good read and highlights the internet opportunities and challenges for retailers both large and small. It shows how online sales were creating High Street vacancies long before the recession bit. As Sir Philip Green of Arcadia Group said: ‘Why carry a High Street rent when it’s easier to increase sales online?’ Portas demonstrates how the growth of internet sales is affecting multiple and independent retailers alike, hence the demise of Woolworths. The report recommends Town Teams of local businesses to manage their High Street like a business, just like the big boys do with their Shopping Centres.

Embracing a willingness to adopt technology recommended by the Portas report the DCLG competition is staged and run entirely online. It was only announced on 4th February and entries must be submitted by 30th March. That’s not much time to prepare an entry but as Scary Mary says, speed of response is vital to successful retailers. All entries need to be accompanied by a video posted on YouTube showing why this entry is down on the streets wiv the kids, innit?

Entries can be lodged by anyone interested in the future of their High Street, not just the local Council. Local partnerships of investors and landlords have as much chance as stallholders or retailers but strong leadership is expected. The entry forms are very simple and applicants are expected to describe their vision, the potential for improving their High Street and their priorities. £1,000,000 of prize money is a cheap way to market-test the reports recommendations and find new ideas to be rolled-out across the nation. If you’ve not yet read the report download it from

www.communities.gov.uk/publications/regeneration/portasreview

and the application form from

www.communities.gov.uk/publications/regeneration/portaspilotsprospectus.

The problem with reports like this is the devil hides in the detail. Some recommendations are very relevant to Markets e.g. a new ‘National Market Day’ when anyone could try their hand at being a trader or removing regulations to allow anyone to trade on the High Street. It includes a recommendation small businesses (presumably including indoor stalls) are offered concessions on their business rates – but the devil is in the detail of implementation. There’s no mention of awkward issues like Market Charters and pedlars licenses and I’d be happier if the legality of individual stall assessments was challenged before giving concessions. But putting the detail to one side for a moment the real value of the report is the debate it stimulates and the reaction of government.

Some 5,268 shops were closed by major retailers in 2011 whilst only 5,094 opened.

The continuing slide of the High Street was confirmed last month by insolvency specialists PriceWaterhouse Coopers. Some 5,268 shops were closed by major retailers in 2011 whilst only 5,094 opened. Bookshops, electrical and home-furnishing retailers were the worst hit with pawnbrokers, credit unions and pound shops taking up some of the slack. As Mike Jervis of PwC said: ‘Electricals and bookshops have suffered as these are now increasingly bought online, but retailers in this sector are typically carrying unnecessarily large property portfolios.’ So there.

The Portas report contains a cartoon of the High Street featuring a prominent Market with smiley customers. I hope your Council got the message and is entering the Town Team competition. If not, there’s still time for you to front it up using your Market as a focus for ‘socializing, culture, well being and learning – as well as shopping’. You may only have 4 weeks to embrace change, but it’s possible.

Good luck.