Wednesday, 3 September 2008

Out of town v Town centres

The Retail Bulletin (3rd Sept 2008) tells us of a report by Malcolm Pinkerton, senior analyst at the much respected Verdict Rearch group in which he outlines what he sees as the probable future relationship between town centre retailing areas and their out of town counterparts.

I am always interested in opinions from this particular source since they are extremely well placed to obtain current intelligence, and their analysis is founded upon good research methodology, but today I have to question at least in part, the conclusions reached in this report.

I have not read the original Verdict Research paper and so it is impossible for me to comment beyond given in the Retail Bulletin, but whilst a number of Mr Pinkerton's conclusions must surely be proven correct it is equally clear that a large amount of crystal ball gazing must have been employed in order to reach any conclusion. In my humble opinion the report has been produced to early in the current economic cycle and too early in the current down-turn phase meaning that a number of possible challenges may yet arise that cannot have been taken into consideration - what was it that Donald Rumsfeldt had to say about unknowns?

What does seem certain to be right in the Retail Bulletin report is that there has been, and perhaps continues to be, a glut of new un-needed retail development and the danger for town centres especially is that their historic cores are altered by partially complete schemes that will permanently throw the town centre dynamic out of kilter and give rise to the potential for marginalised traders to be further disadvantaged. Retail development tends not, any longer, to be piecemeal and that can be a good thing from the perspective of planning schemes; unfortunately it also means that organic growth in a retail centre is also more difficult to obtain - but organic growth is really what we should all be striving for since this tends to be more sustainable.

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