Measures of Revolution on the Local High Street

Conference presentation


Khan, K., Graham, C. and O'Rourke, G. (2023). Measures of Revolution on the Local High Street. Academy of Marketing Conference 2023. University of Birmingham 04 - 06 Jul 2023 AoM.
AuthorsKhan, K., Graham, C. and O'Rourke, G.
TypeConference presentation
Abstract

Purpose: The future of the town centre is widely studied (Enoch et al., 2021; Parker et al., 2017), often with attention focussed on retail closures and vacancy rates (Dolega & Lord, 2020; Hughes & Jackson, 2015), measures that affect footfall (Zhang et al, 2019). But the problem of vitality is wider in scope and more nuanced than those indicators alone. Local government place-marketing policies support business (VanHoose et al, 2020) not just in town centres, but also on smaller high streets; and many retail businesses open each year, replacing those that are lost. Therefore, a fuller interpretation of vitality is only possible by considering at least three measures: vacancies, churn, and evolving business composition, in longitudinal data, across location types. With some exceptions this approach has been limited to single high streets (e.g.,Findlay & Sparks, 2012) or to locations beyond the UK (Meltzer and Caperis,2016) and results are limited by a lack of benchmarks.

If high street businesses require support, it is important to understand the context more clearly. We therefore extend the approach to a comparative retail audit of nine locations across one London borough over eighteen months. For each location we investigated: (1) the change in business vacancy rate (2) the underlying churn rate and ratio (i.e., the number of business openings and closings and the difference between them), and (3) the evolution in the retail business mix.

Method: Observations were collected from 1225 retail premises in nine defined and different location types in one London Borough in June 2021, and in January 2023, a period of macro-economic turbulence. Occupancy, business identity, ownership (multiple or independent) and business type data were collected for each.

Findings: Vacancy or closure rates alone proved insufficient measures of location health. A high closure rate was found to be completely offset by new openings in most locations, thus a stable vacancy rate often masks great volatility. Neither measure accounts for evolving location characteristics: while opening and closing businesses were roughly in balance, comparison retail is declining and convenience and service businesses increasing. Using a combination of measures and a comparative approach across several locations provides a fuller picture, begins to establish norms and offers insight which in some cases could amount to a “red flag”. For example, where high levels of churn are not in equilibrium, or where the character of a smaller high street is rapidly concentrating because a few premises change business type. The dashboard is also able to differentiate high street performance regardless of location size and centrality.

Originality: Our study extends existing work from data that is easily collected or obtained and that can be maintained longitudinally over years. Findings highlight locations that would benefit from place-marketing support or other interventions. It is however still limited in scale and further work is required with larger datasets to test the reliability of the findings, and to establish correlations with wider variables such as catchment density and socio-economic status that could build into robust theory.

KeywordsHigh Street; Vacant; Churn
Year2023
PublisherAoM
Web address (URL)https://academyofmarketing.org/am2023-conference/
Accepted author manuscript
License
File Access Level
Open
Publication dates
Print27 Mar 2023
Publication process dates
Accepted27 Feb 2023
Deposited25 Jul 2023
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https://openresearch.lsbu.ac.uk/item/9399y

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