Giving town’s shops a future
INSPIRED by retail guru Bill Grimsey, a group of students from Edge Hill University were set the task of preparing Ormskirk for the 21st century.
Working in small groups, first year students from the business school visited Ormskirk town centre to observe the current state of the retail and service offer and consider how it may be developed in the future.
In 2013 Bill Grimsey published a report on the state of the high street retail sector, The Grimsey Review, and It’s Time To Reshape Our Town Centres was published this year.
Bill, along with Edge Hill’s Kim Cassidy, delivered an introductory lecture to students to set the scene for the task with information about the causes and significance of today’s high street crisis.
“In order to be socially viable in the 21st century, high streets can’t just rely on shops to attract people, their focus needs to shift and town centres need to be repopulated as community hubs,” said Bill.
“This can be achieved by focusing on alternatives to retail including housing, leisure, entertainment, education, arts and commercial office space.
“Towns must stop trying to compete with out-of-town shopping parks that are conveniently placed and have free parking. They must create their own unique reason for communities to gather there – being interesting and engaging and altogether a compelling and great experience.”
Students displayed their findings and suggestions on posters which were presented to a panel of experts including Kate Pierce, principal economic regeneration officer for West Lancashire Borough Council, Dave Mutch from Ormskirk Community Partnership and Greville Kelly, director of Business Groundwork.
Kate said: “The standard of the presentations was exceptionally high but the winning team and runners up all presented really visionary ideas including sophisticated town centre apps, multiuse retail and events offer and sustainable travel options.
“The next step for the council is to hear more about these ideas from the winning teams, and, with the university, find ways to bring them to life to truly reimagine Ormskirk.”
The winning team, Transformationalists, focused on integrating society and building a community, and to attract consumers they suggested developing an app, offering free Wi-Fi, and putting on events suitable for all ages.
Kim Cassidy, Professor of Marketing at Edge Hill, said: “The student response to this task was tremendous and the outputs exceeded my expectations.”
The posters will be displayed in Chapel Gallery in Ormskirk so members of the public can see the students’ ideas.