Home of The Vacant Shops Academy

RSSIain Nicholson is a #placemaking specialist focused on tackling #highstreet empty shops challenges and improving the mix of use types in towns and city centres or suburbs.

“Iain has consistently demonstrated his enthusiasm for and understanding of town centres and what is needed to keep them alive or revive them. If you have a town centre in need of support then this is the man to ask.”
Town Business Leader

Much of his town and city centres work has been with agents, landlords, businesses and communities, using an ‘audit, engage, encourage, promote’ approach to reducing the number of vacant units, including extensive experience of running ‘meanwhile… use’ and #popupshop projects.

“We know how to bring down vacancy and improve the mix of uses in our town and city centres, but there are no quick fixes, and, ultimately, filling vacant units is about working together…”

The Vacant Shops Academy and ‘Meanwhile…’ toolkit have been created to make that learning available to councils, BIDs, town teams and other #placemakers, needing to drive down this key metric.

“Sometimes in under 18 months, sometimes longer, but the Oxfordshire town centres we’ve worked have seen empty shop numbers halved while we’ve been there.”

“Some towns are in decline, definitely. People like @prbi_Iain are doing a wonderful job at trying to save them!!” From Twitter

Since May 2022, Iain has combined his work building The Vacant Shops Academy with a part-time role as Strategic Development Lead for the Institute of Place Management.

Iain’s earlier town and city centres track record includes:

+ A two and a half year interim City Centre Manager role with Oxford City Council.

TheGBHighSt…for 5 years, from March 2013, with #townteam colleague Mim Norvell (supported by Neil Wild), driving the GBHighSt Award-winning Wantage town centre vitality project, which saw him focus on the challenge of bringing empty shops back to use;

…the 2016 GBHighSt Awards finalist town centre vitality project in Banbury (with Neil, started April 14, renewed for 15-16, 16-17 & 17-18); plus a 17-18 and 18-19 support roles to the team developing / launching Banbury BID;

…and an Independent Shops Project with local partners in Abingdon (launched August ’17, to September ’18).

For two years, Iain and Neil ran an acclaimed pop up shop project in Wallingford (started March ’15, renewed for 16-17), and for a year (started January 2017) led a #townteam project for local partners in Swindon town centre (currently on hold).

Iain is a member of the Institute of Place Management and regularly hosts the national #indiehour forum on Twitter.

“I feel that @prbi_Iain is one of the good guys and we need as many of them as possible. People with experience, but also people willing to share.”
From Twitter

A former BBC radio journalist, Iain draws on his background as a leading PR & Communications for business specialist and his expertise in public relations, business communications strategy, using social media, and skills training. He has good connections to key press, radio, business journal and online outlets, and a strong track record for winning media coverage for clients in the private and public sectors.

“Thank you Iain Nicholson – all this great press down to you!”