Giv­ing town’s shops a fu­ture

Ormskirk Advertiser - - Student Life -

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.

Win­ning team Trans­for­ma­tion­al­ists, from left: Lau­ren Cairns, Jack Glen­non, Sam Col­son, Naomi Grant and Ge­orge Har­ris PAUL HEYES

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