Evolving not…?

“Report confirms stats on death of the high street”, ran the headline.

One of a frustrating timelines-filling set this week.

Thing is tho the stats it set out do nothing of the sort…!

We’ve been trying to unravel from quite sparse detail on the methodology what they do tell us.

We think that the given figure of 6,000 ‘#retail outlets’ lost in 5 years is the net number of closures across 650 ‘shopping locations’.

The assumption from reading it (and maybe of those sharing) is that this is about shops and the #highstreet.

But is it…? If it’s actually about ‘shopping locations’ that includes retail parks and shopping centres so the number of high streets included is smaller. There’s therefore a chance that your town centre isn’t covered at all. What’s more, the closures are not all what you and I call shops. Places that sell stuff. If they’re ‘outlets in retail locations’ that might have been garages or salons or tattoo parlours or bookies or banks…?

Either way, assuming we’ve understood the data and got the maths right: 6000 closures across 650 locations in 5 years is an average of 2 closures per place per year.

Headline: “Two city centre shops closed this year.” I don’t think so.

But there’s another thing from #TheVacantShopsAcademy work on tackling empty shops issues: the method behind these stats. If you count closures by visiting a town and noting the visibly empty units at that time, you might well include some that aren’t vacant at all.

One of the 19 locations we’ve audited had 27 visibly ‘vacant’ units. But when we ‘engage’ with agents to check the status of those empties and take off any that are let or near to, the figure came down…

…to 9: ONE THIRD of the headline number. A huge difference. We’ll shortly publish data for another town and expect that’ll show similar.

None of this is to say things aren’t still challenging. They are, in some places especially so.

But fixing them requires inward investment and confidence so talking down our places doesn’t help.

Is it time to rest the gloomster strategy in favour of something more positive. Call for the changes we need by all means, but as an argument for building on strengths and success.

It’s surely worth a try.

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