Retailing, High Streets, Town Centres and Stirling

I don’t often get to watch much daytime TV, especially at work, but that’s another thing the internet is transforming. The ability to stream TV direct to my desktop has opened up new panoramas (and I don’t mean Jeremy Kyle, though I’d better a draw a veil over the Lions tour to Australia and its effect on my productivity).

Anyhow, Tuesday saw me glued to my TV, sorry working hard at my desktop computer, watching various MPs being oh so polite to Bill Grimsey and oh so beastly to one of their own, the new Minister for Mary Portas, Brandon Lewis. It was a strange contrast, with Bill G well on top of his brief and very clear in what he wanted to say, whatever question was asked. The Minister on the other hand … I think it was all of 5 minutes before mutual exasperation broke out.

I fear Parliament TV (well the Select Committee Inquisition bits) could get addictive.

The following day was more of a radio one (though also streamed to my desktop of course). Hot on the heels of the PwC/LDC report on multiple closures and openings in Scottish cities and some towns (see comments in the Herald and Scotsman) I was invited onto the Call Kaye BBC Radio Scotland phone-in show, It had its moments, and was quite upbeat all things considered.

So what joins these two events (other than it’s not real work in the eyes of some)? For me there remains a huge frustration over the use of high street and town centre as seemingly interchangeable terms, often  by people who should -and do -know better. We don’t have a high street problem in isolation; we have a town centre problem within which the high street and its problems fit. And our retail problem is not just a high street one, but is a structural change in retailing, technologies (not just online and internet) and consumer behaviour and demand.

We really should stop conflating these elements as it misses the point. The focus has to be on places i.e. towns and town centres and creating reasons for people to want (and perhaps need) to go to them. This includes, but is not restricted to, the retail element. We’ve decentralised so much and seen our patterns change (internet and other things), in many spheres, not only retailing.

Some of these thoughts have been the subject of the various presentations I’ve been doing recently (in Paris, the Scottish Grocers Federation and for the Stirling Civic Trust). A number of people have asked about these, and especially the latter, and so I attach here the overheads that I used in Stirling. The front part covers some general thoughts with the latter being more Stirling specific. I hope they make sense but I am happy to expand directly if it helps.

Next week sees two more presentations and then I really will need a lie-down with daytime TV. At the Lighthouse in Glasgow on Monday I am a minor part in a session about work (not by me) on town benchmarking and typologies funded via the Scottish Government’s Challenge Fund. And on Tuesday I am reprising a provocation – this time aimed at local government – in a Public Finance/Deloitte roundtable in London on regeneration and the local authority. Reflections on these to follow in due course.

Now where’s the remote/mouse?

About Leigh Sparks

I am Professor of Retail Studies at the Institute for Retail Studies, University of Stirling, where I research and teach aspects of retailing and retail supply chains, alongside various colleagues. I am Chair of Scotland's Towns Partnership. I am also a Deputy Principal of the University, with responsibility for Education and Students.
This entry was posted in Bill Grimsey, Consumers, Government, High Streets, Internet, Mary Portas, Places, Stirling, Town Centres and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Retailing, High Streets, Town Centres and Stirling

  1. Mark Charters says:

    The select committees are very addictive. The Commons public accounts committee is possibly the most interesting. Margret Hodge has some devistating questions on value for money, wasting public funds, tax avoidance and the true cost of government programmes! If only they lead to major reform.

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