Tom Keighley

Member Article

Nail salons outnumber Chinese restaurants on high streets

High streets might need to develop niche roles in order to weather the impacts of austerity, online and out-of-town retailing.

Research from the Oxford Institute of Retail Management and the Local Data Company has looked at how high streets trade over the short and long term.

The study looked at diversity across 1,300 high streets, and measured the variety of comparison goods outlets. Bath, York, Exeter and Cheltenham scored highly, along with smaller centres such as Salisbury, Leamington Spa and Chichester.

Leisure services, particularly entertainment and hospitality provision, were also measured. Places like Bournemouth, Stratford-upon-Avon, Blackpool and Weston-super-Mare scored highly in this field.

For restaurant diversity, Camden Town, Ealing, Clapham, Putney and Richmond were among those places offering greatest choice.

Despite challenges in retailing now digitised goods such as games, CDs, DVDs and books, the areas of high street growth were identified as Value retailing, pawnbrokers, pay-day lenders and betting shops.

The research suggested food is also returning to some high streets, as the number of convenience stores had grown 17%, and independent food specialists were noted to be undergoing a “modest resurgence.”

Nail salons now outnumber Chinese restaurants on the high street, the research highlighted. Health and beauty outlets grew by 10.4%, equating to 2,300 new outlets over the last two years.

Matthew Hopkinson, director at the Local Data Company commented: “This research has developed some fascinating insights into the importance of occupation trends when all too often it is vacancy rates that drive the headlines. Recent political interest in how one can influence the occupational changes that we have shown is a new aspect of high street politics.

“The level of detail and analysis that this research has shown is, in my view, a key component to understanding the fundamental changes taking place in our town centres. It is data and qualitative research that is available today and which forms a critical part to understanding the changes taking place. This is important knowledge when knowing how to tackle these rapid and dramatic changes at both a national, regional and local level.

“The decline of a town centre may be seen by some as only the increase of vacancy rates but for others, including Ed Miliband, it may be considered as the decline of occupational quality or a significant number (clustering) of one type of offer which is deemed as undesirable. Knowing what and where this is happening is half the battle. This research shows that this is possible and our future plans intend to highlight the ‘at risk’ locations of the future.”

Places such as Derby, Milton Keynes, Norwich and Solihull had seen the largest increases in multiple comparison retailers, whereas the likes of Croydon, Doncaster and Plymouth experienced some of the most significant falls.

Dr. Jonathan Reynolds, Academic Director, Oxford Institute of Retail Management, Said Business School, Oxford University said: “We’re replacing the hype generated about the future of our High Streets with analysis based on the hard evidence of what is actually happening in terms of the extent and mix of businesses in town centres, and how this is changing.

“Many High Streets are already evolving to accommodate both the effects of online business as well as the needs of shoppers in some areas for more value-driven retailing. The most successful High Streets will need to be increasingly diverse and adaptable places, and not just in terms of their retail offer. Services also play an important role in attracting shoppers. And so there are some good news stories in our analysis, as well as some more sobering insights.”

This was posted in Bdaily's Members' News section by Tom Keighley .

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