Building an Evidence Base
To be able to improve the performance of your town centre, you first need a picture of what is happening now. This is known as a baseline. You can then monitor activity and change compared to your baseline, using it to prove trends or showcase opportunities.
By selecting and monitoring a short list of ‘Key Performance Indicators’ (KPIs), such as footfall, vacancy rates, car park occupancy, commercial rents or local spend, you can build a valuable evidence base to inform your decisions. You should also consider the impact of your social media and website, such as number of followers, the 'click-through' rate of links you send out and so on. This evidence can also be used to generate further inward investment and show off the potential value of your town centre for business and community uses.
Collecting this data over a number of years can tell you how your town centre is evolving and bring to light interesting trends. Knowing these trends is vital for a strategic approach to town centre management and can be very helpful if you wish to measure your performance against other centres.
Gathering the data does not need to be expensive or complex, and there is a free guide here to get you started. Provided you can assure them of the confidentiality of their data many retailers may give you monthly or weekly figures of how many people passed through their doors, how many transactions they made, and in some cases an average transaction figure. If you get these figures from a number of retailers and combine them to anonymise the data, you will start to see a picture of the activity patterns on your high street. If you add other statistics, the picture gains more depth.
Shopping centres and most large retailers have footfall systems on their main doors that count people entering and leaving. There are systems that do a similar thing outside in the public realm which many local authorities and town partnerships have invested in for the value of the information that they provide. For more information check out www.spring-board.info and www.footfall.com amongst others.