Living in Beeston, I am lucky to do most of my shopping locally. There are a few exceptions, where we need to go to Nottingham City Centre, and occasionally to the Chilwell, and Riverside Retail Parks. But Beeston is a good local retail centre, with many excellent shops, cafes and restaurants, and much of Beeston High Road is pedestrianised.
Despite this, Beeston does not achieve especially good ratings in the league tables produced by various retail consultancy companies. There is a simple reason for this. These rankings are really designed for high streets and retail parks that have many of the big-brand chain stores, and that sort of measure does not do justice to the things that Beeston does well.
One of the leading indices of retail location quality (the Javelin Venuescore), mainly gives points for national brand retail multiples – such as department stores, variety stores (e.g. IKEA), hypermarkets and supermarkets, local ‘anchors’ (e.g. Marks and Spencer), speciality multiples (e.g. B&Q), clothing multiples, and leisure good multiples. But for me, that misses the point of Beeston. There are twenty or more very good independent stores that I use regularly, but, as I understand it, none of these are counted in the Venuescore ranking.
To take another example, the HDH Vitality Index ranks retail locations by their ‘retail health’. Once again, the main focus in on ‘up market’ shops, as a measure of ‘good health’, while the presence of ‘undesirable’ shops (e.g. betting shops, pawn brokers, pay day loan shops and e-cigarette specialists) is taken as an indication of ‘declining health’. Once again, I don’t think this approach does justice to Beeston. We find these shops in Beeston because Beeston is diverse, and they serve local needs.
I would like to see a new sort of location ranking emerge, which is not so preoccupied with big brands, but tries to measure how well a retail location serves the diverse needs of the local population. This sort of index would go beyond existing measures of retail quality, to consider rankings for retail diversity, sustainability, and a healthy independent sector. I believe such an approach would start to do justice to what it is about Beeston that makes it special.
Peter Swann is retired, but previously taught industrial economics and innovation at the University of Nottingham.
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