The business case for better streets and places

Electronic walking man on screen

One of many fantastic presentations at Walk 21, was from Living Streets London Manager, Tom Platt. He spoke about the business case for investing in better streets and places to deliver improved financial return for the high street (also known in other countries as the main street, downtown or shopping streets).

In the last decade, 16 per cent of high street shops in Britain have become vacant. During this time people have continued to move from short frequent shopping trips, to longer, less frequent car trips, with two thirds of shopping trips made by car.

The UK based study entitled the Pedestrian Pound, was commissioned by Living Streets and supports investing in the public realm as a means to increasing retail spending, reducing retail vacancies and creating an environment where people will walk for shopping trips. (This also contributes to other established co-benefits related to health, social inclusion and the environment).

The study findings include that:

  • Well planned improvements to public spaces can boost footfall and trading by up to 40%.
  • Investing in better streets and spaces for walking can provide a competitive return compared to other transport projects, with walking and cycling projects increasing retail sales by up to 30%.
  • Many car journeys are short and as the volume of goods is small, these trips could be made on foot.

The report is also supported by interesting case studies from the UK, including:

  • Sheffield, Heart of the City
  • Oxford Circus, diagonal crossing – where improvements to the pedestrian environment were found to result in an increased turnover of 25% for one of the major retailers facing this intersection.
  • Reinvigorate York, providing pedestrian improvements for the 7 million visitors that visit York annually.

To find out more about this study click here.

Indie City Index

Indie city index logo

The Indie City Index identifies locations in the U.S. with the highest percentage of independent retailers. Released in January 2011 by Civic Economics and the American Booksellers Association, it aims to highlight urban centres that support independent retailers.

The index promotes the idea that local independent businesses can enhance the identity of a community and create a sense of place that endlessly replicated chain stores cannot match.

It extends from studies quantifying the economic and community benefits of independent retail and service providers. These studies have found that locally-owned and independent businesses recirculate substantially more money within the local economy than do chain store competitors.

The Index was constructed from the proportion of local retail sales not captured by the major chains. An Index of 100 represents the national average. Index scores above 100 represent healthier independent retail markets while scores below 100 represent the more chain-dominated markets.

The main message highlighted by the Indie City Index is that communities are strengthened by a vibrant indie retail sector and on first pass it appears that the index scores rise with total population and population density. Index scores also increase overall as indicators of attractiveness, median home value, cost of living and educational and cultural achievement rise.

For more information on the Indie City Index click here.