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Business academics bid to boost Altrincham
12:20pm Wednesday 1st January 2014 in News
BUSINESS academics are on a mission to help Altrincham’s high streets – by teaming up with the town to bring cutting-edge research directly to it.
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 under ‘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 – including in Altrincham – to draw together evidence from the latest retail research.
They will exchange this knowledge 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.
Prof Cathy Parker, chairman of marketing and retail enterprise at MMU and co-researcher for Parliament’s ‘High Street Britain 2015’ report, is leading the project with Simon Quin, co-author of the influential ‘Vital and Viable Town Centres: Meeting the Challenge’ report and 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.
“The project will focus on understanding the changing nature of retail along with getting to grips with changes in high street space usage and what forces are influencing changes. This project will review and distil the evidence relating to spatial change for high streets in Britain, to 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, the footfall data specialists. MMU academics will start on the project, which runs until December 2014, in January 2014. Local workshops have been earmarked for the Spring and will be held in different locations to bring together retailers, local stakeholders and agencies.
This online resource will be available to all towns at the end of the project. Regional seminars will be held to share research and to develop a shared understanding of the nature of the challenges facing the British high street.
- The 10 towns taking part are: Alsager, Altrincham, Ballymena, Barnsley, Bristol, Congleton, Holmfirth, Market Rasen, Morley, Wrexham.
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