Retail Workshops: Where to begin with town centre planning

Managing a single retail chain is complicated enough however when it comes to retail locations, town centres, shopping centres, retail and leisure destinations then simply the number of stakeholders and agendas involved can create an insurmountable complexity making the whole decision process impossible, never mind the delivery itself.



So if you’re in a quandary as to how to move forwards with a coordinated and workable retail strategy for your location then how to begin?

One thing is for sure, effective change cannot be imposed but must be reached through discussion and consensus between all relevant parties. The successful delivery of a retail strategy will be the result of the commitment and endeavour of a wide-ranging group of people, but all with a common aim – to develop a retail destination to attract customer traffic so that everyone in that location wins – commercially and emotionally.

Workshops are an effective tool in all areas of retail because of their collaborative and interactive nature. When properly managed they introduce all the relevant facts and considerations to allow balanced discussions, they discard the misconceptions and they focus the communal mind on the important issues and how to address them. For retail locations and place managers, an initial retail strategy workshop should be an absolute landmark event in the development journey. Whether a planner or a councillor, retailer, resident or road-sweeper the workshop should have such a decisive impact that everyone says throughout the subsequent delivery process “I was there!”

So what happens in a retail location workshop?


Ideally a workshop takes place over 2 consecutive days although a more strategically focused scope and agenda can be managed in a single day. Ideally all major stakeholders are present from council representatives, BIDs, enterprises and business organisations, retail companies, leisure and tourism offices, store managers, letting agents, landlords, residents and customers – whatever ingredients constitute your own specific stakeholder cocktail.

The agenda takes a step-by-step process working through the key considerations one by one but with the wider picture always in mind. This process is managed and driven by a knowledgeable retail facilitator who inputs all the relevant information, presents best practice and competitor case studies whilst generating and rationalising agreed conclusions and action plans for each consideration. As well as carrying out important local research before the workshop the retail facilitator should also summarise the whole workshop in terms of strategic objectives, priority actions, and stakeholder roles and responsibilities for a final report.

During the 2 days, each section involves firstly a formal presentation on the principals, the current local situation and best practice, followed by group exercises, working tables to sketch-out important issues, and finally a summary discussion with conclusions.

For retail location workshops the following issues should be worked through…


  • What should our retail location be in relation to its customer demographic?
  • Should it have different areas or quarters to be different things to different customers?
  • How does the current retail offer compare to local competitor destinations?
  • What are our current retail strengths & weaknesses?
  • Are we missing independents, or national chains or retailers focused on a specific demographic?
  • Are our retailers simply not good enough, in which case how do we improve them?
  • What brands and specific retailers should we be attracting into the location?
  • What practical elements of our town need improving from traffic, parking and security to wi-fi and services?
  • What should we prioritise and how should we improve these practical issues?
  • What are the strengths of our location – history, beauty, activities, leisure, excitement or calmness?
  • How should we leverage these opportunities to attract more traffic?
  • How can we improve our events and retail calendar to embrace and benefit our retailers?
  • What practical steps can we take to support our independent retailers?
  • What local resource & skills can we employ to deliver practical and creative improvements to our town and retail environments?
  • Can we put together a “support toolkit” to help our local retailers become destinations?

And so the Retail Location Strategy workshop can become a springboard not only for initiatives and actions, but as a beginning of new relationships and collaborations between the location stakeholders.


Is retail a defined part of your place management strategy?

Do you have a coordinated strategy for building your retail offer attracting more traffic to your town?

Is your retail community coordinated with the authorities, planners and business leaders who make important decisions about your location’s future?


Let VM-unleashed help you realise your new horizons…

VM=Venue Mapping is a retail location strategic process that not only benchmarks destinations from a quantitative perspective such as the number and type of shops but also from a qualitative viewpoint defining the taste, lifestyle positions and emotional propositions of both individual retailers and for a destination as a whole.

VM=Vendor Management is a practical support service for individual and groups of independent retailers to develop them as best practice, commercially successful retailers through the introduction of correct processes and principles across essential functions, with ongoing support and training to maintain the highest commercial standards.

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