BUSINESS academics are on a mission to help the UK’s high streets – by teaming up with 10 towns to bring cutting-edge research directly to them.
Researchers from Manchester Metropolitan University are leading a pioneering £250,000 project to breathe new life into the high street over the next six years, called High Street UK 2020.
Traditional British high streets have been facing ‘unprecedented threats’ in recent years as competition from the internet intensified as well as shoppers’ pockets being hit by the economic downturn.
The experts have linked up with 10 high street partnerships in: Alsager, Altrincham, Ballymena, Barnsley, Bristol, Congleton, Holmfirth, Market Rasen, Morley and Wrexham.
They will exchange evidence and retail research through a series of local workshops, regional-themed seminars and an online support centre.
These resources will be available free to the high street partners, giving unrivalled access to research normally unattainable by local partnerships.
One of the biggest tools will allow the partners to model different futures for the high street and create appropriate plans for each scenario that could play out over the next few years.
Professor Cathy Parker, Chair of Marketing and Retail Enterprise, is leading the project with Simon Quin, Director of the Institute of Place Management.
Prof Parker said: “The changing nature of retail in Britain brings many benefits to consumers but is having significant consequences for communities and retailers themselves.
“Having suffered the impact of out-of-town shopping for some 30 years, evidence shows that the threat to high streets in Britain is now at an unprecedented level.
“But despite this research, government-commissioned reports and extensive media coverage, it is far from clear that retailers, local actors and agencies responsible for managing places know how to respond effectively.
“We will enable individual locations to forecast the likely future for their high street in 2020 if no intervention takes place. We want to identify a variety of appropriate and sustainable interventions available to make an alternative, sustainable future for their high street in 2020.”
The team has been awarded a £112,000 grant from the Economic and Social Research Council with £140,000 investment coming from partners, including Springboard, footfall data specialists.
MMU academics will start on the year-long project in January 2014.
The online resource will be available to all towns at the end of the project, while regional seminars will be held to share research throughout.
Contact Professor Parker on 07753 882885 or via the MMU Press Office on 0161 247 3406/2184.