Market Town Idea Used to Re-Generate High Streets
With boarded up shops becoming the norm in our town centres, measures are being taken across the UK to experiment with innovative ideas in order to breathe some life back into High Streets. Mary Portas has pioneered projects in a bid to revitalise ailing stores as well as shopping centres as a whole. Many UK towns have applied to be a Portas Pilot and the market town of Liskeard in Cornwall was chosen for the last instalment of Mary Queen of The High Street on Channel 4 on Tuesday 21 May 2013.
There used to be a twice weekly cattle market in this thriving, buzzing town until the foot and mouth outbreak in 2001 decimated businesses in Liskeard. Soaring parking charges, high shop rents and an out of town store have contributed to its demise and now the cattle market only takes place twice a month.
The supermarket with its onsite parking and the lack of access into the town is the main deterrent preventing people from venturing into the high street. Mary Portas emphasises that there is nothing wrong with supermarkets, but there is room for providing customers with a choice of produce coupled with a positive, social shopping experience. She wants to move the supermarket back into the town centre and create an alternative by bringing together individual shops, in other words to re-develop Liskeard’s reputation as a market town.
Market towns are traditionally based around food and there is scope to prevent these quaint shopping centres from further degeneration. Even in the challenging economic climate, there is still a high demand for quality food products and it is worth remembering that out of every pound spent in the UK, 50 pence goes on food.
Melton Mowbray bloomed by fostering a reputation for producing high quality pork pies and there is no reason why other towns can’t cultivate their own unique products and build up a good name for themselves. Liskeard was a perfect market town to focus on for rejuvenation as there were already good quality food outlets selling prime produce. The question Mary asks is how do we make these businesses so good that people want to travel there in order to get their products? A green grocer, butcher and fishmonger are encouraged to cooperate to re-brand Liskeard as a distinct district selling quality food. The premise is that the local independent food shops attract footfall from which other businesses can benefit.
Mary’s suggestion for developing a good reputation is to think about delivery rounds. There are worries that boxes of food delivered to customers will take the footfall out of the town, however Mary refutes this with the theory that customers will come to rely on the produce then seek out more. Delivery boxes are about creating brand loyalty because people buy into brands over and above non-branded goods.
Brand loyalty taps into our need to feel secure in our purchasing choices. We want to put our trust into a brand, so that it becomes part of our routine. The reason we want to try something new is not always about spontaneity, sometimes it is simply a quest for a product or service that we hope to take for granted, so that we don’t have to keep on trying new things.
Lipsmacking Liskeard is the alliteration used as the brand for the 3 shopfronts and they each sell premium pies with ambitions of Lipsmacking Liskeard’s pies becoming famous, making their way onto supermarket shelves and being sold online.
Obviously, selling high quality products is essential for businesses to be successful, but the outward appearance of shops in the High Street play a crucial role for town centres to flourish. Liskeard has a lovely mix of architecture and once the High Street is cleaned up, it is deemed premium. Many volunteers paint shopfronts along the entire street and it is transformed. It’s cosmetic, but making shops attractive is half the battle.
The Co-operative, Boots and Lloyds have donated money and HSBC will mentor businesses. If landlords think laterally and encourage a variety of business ventures to blossom with lower rents, market towns have more of chance of being the hub of a social centre as has been the tradition. It is this social aspect within business development that could be the key to saving our High Streets.