Thursday, April 20, 2017

News: Retail not the answer for Rotherham town centre

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Industry analysts have confirmed that retail is not the answer for regenerating Rotherham town centre.

A detailed study into the retail sector in Sheffield and Rotherham has been carried out by experts at Bilfinger GVA - the largest independent commercial property agency in the UK.

Using surveys, studies and data, the latest study confirms that Rotherham is at the pinnacle of the retail hierarchy in the borough but it is not the location with the highest comparison goods turnover.

Rotherham shoppers have never had it so good, with leading names at nearby Parkgate and Meadowhall, and an independent offer and weekly markets in the town centre.

The study highlights that the large collection of stores in Parkgate Shopping are becoming increasingly attractive to residents of Rotherham and that Meadowhall presents significant competition for the borough's shoppers and dominates the luxury and sports goods market. Another example is that Parkgate has a 35% market share as the first choice for Rotherham shoppers looking for new clothes, followed by 26% for Meadowhall and then 19% for Rotherham town centre.

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Overall, the residents of Rotherham generate a total pot of £607m of comparison goods expenditure per annum. Just over £1 in every £10 from the Borough's residents is still being spent in Rotherham town centre. £2.50 in every £10 spent by the Borough's residents is spent at Parkgate and £2 in every £10 is being spent at Meadowhall.

The consultants conclude: "Rotherham is at the pinnacle of the retail hierarchy in the Borough but it is not the location with the highest comparison goods turnover. That role has been taken by Parkgate which is, for some types of comparison goods shopping, considerably more attractive than the town centre. In addition Rotherham town centre also faces considerable competition from Meadowhall, and these factors leave the town centre with a relatively small geographic catchment and a weak market penetration level with this catchment.

"These pressures also leave the town centre with a vacancy level which is noticeably higher than the national average and also lower than average levels of comparison goods retailing and service uses."

The figures used in the study has the vacancy rate at 28% for 2016, more than twice the national average of 12%.

"Convenience goods" is broadly defined as food, drinks, tobacco, newspapers, magazines, cleaning materials, toilet articles. "Comparison goods" covers other goods not classified as convenience goods.

Rotherham's share of stores selling comparison goods is on the decline, mirroring the national trend. Household shopper surveys showed, when compared to a similar survey in 2012, that there has been a drop in the proportion of people visiting the town centre for non-food shopping, but little change in relation to food shopping visits.

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The consultants add: "We consider that comparison goods retailer demand for the town centre is likely to be subdued. The socio-demographic profile of the town suggests that the centre is likely to appeal to mid-market and value orientated retailers and a number of these are already present including B&M, Poundstretcher and Primark [but not for long].

"Many other comparison goods retailers who would consider the Rotherham catchment are already present at Parkgate and it is very unlikely that these retailers would consider a second store in such close proximity. The same is true for Meadowhall, given its proximity to Rotherham town centre, catchment and accessibility from the main road network."

The weaknesses and vulnerability have been known for a while, and signs are that the latest town centre masterplan will look at consolidating retail and instead focus on new housing and boosting the leisure offer to breathe new life into the town centre.
The same study highlighted that there is enough demand for an 11 screen cinema in the borough, which will support Rotherham Council's proposals for a £43.5m leisure hub around Forge Island.

The consultants back up this approach, advising the Council to focus on trying to maintain the current comparison goods role of the town centre in the face of sustained competition and look at other sectors to add vibrancy and vitality.

The study adds: "With the ability to increase its comparison goods market share rather challenging, we consider that the future health of the town centre lies in the ability to diversify its offer and suite of land uses. This will include introducing a greater diversity of leisure and food/drink uses, in order to increase vitality and activity throughout the day and evening. This will also be assisted by an increase in the local residential population."

Rotherham Council has also been provided with analysis to help determine future retail planning applications. The study concludes that there is no need to plan for any further (net additional) convenience goods floorspace, and that "there does not appear to be an urgent or substantial short term quantitative need for net additional comparison goods floorspace."

Images: Visit Rotherham / BMO


3 comments:

sandy draper April 20, 2017 at 1:24 PM  

We don't all want to go to Meadowhall or Parkgate I much prefer to shop in town and help local shops

Anonymous,  April 20, 2017 at 5:18 PM  

There must be reasons to visit any town centre, Rotherham has never been an exception to this. Whilst a cinema might be part of the solution, it doesn't necessarily resolve the problem.

Town centre businesses aren't just competing with Parkgate and Meadowhall in terms of national high street chains, but they are also competing with urban centres like Wickersley, Maltby, Brinsworth, Wath etc. Where there's an abundance of free parking, and rarely the prospect of coming into contact with RMBCs revenue development officers (Otherwise known as traffic wardens!) What need is there to go to town when you've got everything you need on your doorstep (and you don't have to pay for parking!)

Successful town centres offer a place to work, to live and to play. Successful town centres are aspirational, dynamic and visionary: giving a nod to the past, but firmly looking towards the future. It's this balance which not only encourages people to spend time in the centre, but also makes them an attractive place to attract investment and business growth.

Anonymous,  April 21, 2017 at 9:21 AM  

Free parking areas a cinema and leisure facilities bowling alley a music arena like the leeds arena plus restaurants are needed to bring people in during the day aswell as evening .also park some buses on streets again near shops instead of the bus station

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