Project to help decline of Barnsley’s high street

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A project between Barnsley Council and Manchester Metropolitan University has identified the top priorities to help the town’s high street.

Business academics are leading a £250,000 scheme, called High Street UK 2020, in a bid to reverse the decline of the high street in 10 towns across the country.

Barnsley was chosen to pilot a new research method to analyse change in the high street, developed by experts from the university.

They have now published their findings after working closely with the council and the authority’s town centre services since January.

It was found that around only a third of the factors that impact upon high street performance can be managed locally.

Professor Cathy Parker, chair of retail and marketing enterprise at MMU and the project’s lead researcher, said: “High streets will continue to be affected by forces outside of their control, like the state of the economy, retail innovation and changes in consumer behaviour.

“What’s important is that locations understand what they can influence - and prioritise the actions that will have the most positive impact.

“In the case of Barnsley, a lot can be achieved by the retailers working together with town centre services and other stakeholders to improve the customer experience.”

Traders met with council officers and university officials and to identify key priorities for the town centre during a workshop.

These were reviewing opening hours to reflect the needs of the catchment, attracting new retailers and development, making a better customer experience, tackling anti-social behaviour across the town centre, better marketing and promotion, building a sense of pride and more positive perceptions of the town and more collective action and networking across all stakeholders.

Anne Untisz, town centre services manager, said: “The enthusiasm from town centre businesses supporting the project was welcome.

“We now need to use this to engage with more retailers to drive forward a valuable and achievable action plan.”