The Future of Retailing in Historic Towns

Town Square Shopping Centre, Stratford-upon-AvonThis was the title of the Stratford-upon-Avon Society's annual public lecture on 11 October given by Dr Brian Raggett, Executive Director of C B Richard Ellis, who is leading the CBRE contribution to the World Class Stratford project.

His main message was that Stratford needs better shopping, better restaurants, better transport - and a range of cultural activities apart from Shakespeare if the town is to compete successfully in the 21st century market place and avoid the 'Clone Town Trap', according to Ian Heggie, Chair of the Stratford-upon-Avon Society (and Member of the EHTF Executive Committee).

Dr Raggett continued: "It is important to play to the town's strengths but also maintain diversity and to study retail trends,and to avoid being a clone and to concentrate on local distinctiveness." He suggested that this could mean expanding the farmers' market, as has been done in Stroud,or attracting major organic retailers and internationally recognised restaurants, as in Ludlow.  He pointed out that a key trend in retailing was away from covered centres towards schemes with more public space.  Research shows that customers prefer shopping in open environments and strong civic leadership was needed to encourage high-value non-retail employment and partnerships which create an atmosphere that would attract and stimulate retailers.

He said that"Customers have to be satisfied, but retailers need to be inspired by what the town has to offer'. To achieve this it is necessary to solve transport problems and to focus on 'place making'.

Speaking of Stratford, he said "The places between the shops have to be more attractive and they are not yet. World Class Stratford should change that.It is also necessary to consider the entrances to the town from major car parks - visitors must be encouraged to think this is a different and interesting place'.

The points made by Dr Raggett are strongly supported by the Forum through its guidance documents and will continue to be advocated in the coming year with further work on retail development in historic towns.

Image: Town Square Shopping Centre, Stratford-upon-Avon