Over the last 10 years, People & Places staff have helped survey hundreds of small towns through our town centre benchmarking. This survey work helps understand how High Streets compare and the changes in performance as local improvements are made.
Here we share our findings from last year so you can see how High Streets compare to the performance of an average British small town centre. You may find that your town centre is doing better than you thought and be able to track the benefits from recent improvements.
How the average High Street performs
This is what you would find on a stroll down such an average High Street:
- 52% of the businesses will be shops and the remainder will comprise food and drink (17%); financial services including estate agents (14%); and community and leisure uses (7%).
- 18% of the shops will offer you everyday items while 82% will be selling ‘comparison’ goods like clothes and electrical equipment.
- Nearly two-thirds of the businesses (64%) will be independently-owned though only 7% of the multiples will be the ‘key attractors’ that draw customers to town.
- On average in a small town centre you will find that 9% of shops are empty.
- You may be underwhelmed by the weekly market that on average has only 14 stalls
- On a busy day you will be one of 588 potential customers that walk through the busiest part of the town centre every hour though peripheral streets will most likely be much quieter.
- You will find it easy to park with nearly a third of spaces (31%) available on a busy mid-week day though you might find on-street parking harder to find as critically only 15% of these parking spots are usually unoccupied.
Business and customers’ views
- Chat to businesses and you will find 71% have been based there for more than five years and only 6% are new. They will tell you that last year wasn’t great with 42% having seen turnover decrease. They can be resilient though with 87% predicting turnover will increase or stay the same over the next 12 months; leaving13% expecting a worrying year-on-year decline.
- The businesses will say that they value most the potential for local customers (77%) in small towns, whilst car parking as ever (50%) tops their concerns followed by neighbouring empty shops (41%) and competition from out-of-town retail (40%).
- Talk to fellow shoppers and you’ll find that over half (56%) visit the town more than once each week; spend more than £10 (61%); or linger for less than 2 hours (82%).
- Town centre customers are not simply there to shop and will be most positive about the convenience (64%), access to services (56%) and accessibility (56%) of the town centre; whilst the underwhelming market (74%), parking -despite its availability- (57%), attractiveness (54%) and the shopping mix (51%) will be their biggest disappointments.
Download our free infographic on How high streets compare
Measure how your High Street compares
If you’d like to learn how to measure the performance and perceptions about your town centre and how this compares to the average High Street, get in touch. We can carry out surveys or there’s a simple and cost-effective license you can buy from us. We’ll provide a self-help manual and help you with the number crunching. Contact us to find out more: email firstname.lastname@example.org
Learn about how this benchmarking approach has been used since 2012 to help ‘Our Bury St Edmunds’ BID track trends; or how the understanding gained has underpinned town team development, action planning and delivery in towns like Ballinasloe, County Galway.