Future of the high street
High streets are changing. Our high streets should focus on the community needs rather on slightly modifying what we have always done. When faced with a change in business circumstances ,Thomas Jardine & Co always use Strategyzers excellent Business Model Canvas. This focuses our attention on end users rather on our portfolio of services and products. In business life it is not a case of doing what you have always done. It’s about doing what your customer needs to get past their problems and improve their life.
We have to meet the needs of the community in a way that is economically sustainable for both the high street businesses and those businesses or organisations that support them. For this productivity is key. Thomas Jardine & Co has a thing about productivity, Jacqui is an ambassador for Be the Business who are tasked with driving productivity up across the country.
The High Streets belong to a place
There is an extreme diversity in size and scope of our high streets (see Institute of Place Management). They can be servicing a small catchment area with mainly retail services. Or act as an anchor for a vast catchment area offering a wide variety of services. The place the high street is set in is not dictated by political boundaries. Carlisle for example has a catchment area that covers various counties and two countries.
High streets are a community of people
Our high streets are made up of businesses that serve the community that chooses to use them. Our community looks to both the high street businesses and the council to provide a place that meets their needs. We often forget that a lot of the businesses and councils are made up of people who are part of the community. Your high street future will be about true collaboration of all those involved from users to businesses to council and business support.
The high street is based on service. Service industries such as retail , hospitality and food traditionally rely on a pool of lower paid workers. So the rise of minimum wage has a disproportionate impact on businesses in that sector that continue to depend on low wage work force . The problem the businesses have is that they are serviced based at a time when consumers are increasingly price conscious. Those businesses that adopt technology can increase productivity. This allows them to upskill their workforce and still offer a degree of personal service. The excellent essays from the Carnegie UK Trust and RSA look at productivity in the UK. Productivity isn’t just about replacing low paid low productive jobs with high paid high productive jobs. It’s about creating an attitude to improving the future of the business and the worker. If business isn’t allowed to focus on this then the future of business and jobs is in jeopardy.
Productivity and the High Street
High Street food and hospitality businesses need more focused support from the ‘business support sector’. From a business perspective:
- Businesses don’t always take up the available support funds because the route to these funds is far from transparent. Do funders offer funding via the usual partners rather than talking to businesses ?
- Businesses don’t always use the training support offered because the support can be ‘off the shelf’. Do trainers deliver what they always have rather than what the business needs ?
- Business tend to spend a lot of time focusing on the potential impact of regulations which takes them away from focusing on business productivity. With limited resource do regulators rely on business keeping up with regulations rather than working with business to mitigate the risk the regulations is set to deal with?
- If a business wants to expand it has to deal with a raft of different bodies. Do councils with limited resources focus on delivering individual services (sometimes with conflicting recommendations) rather than offering a one stop solution for individual businesses?
No-one is right or wrong here. That doesn’t matter. If we don’t all work together to improve the productivity of the high street so that it can offer the services its communities need then we all lose.
Future High Street Fund
The governments new Future High Street Fund which is open to a 100 high streets across the country. It recognises that the private and public sector need to work together.
It is easy to say that collaboration between the public sector and private sector is key to the future of our high streets. We are all part of the same community, where we work together and focus on the end user of our high street we will have a sustainable future. Where we don’t we can always blame each other.
What is coworking , why is it so important for place?
The rise and potential fall of wework has made coworking something of a real estate buzz word. Now real estate sees coworking as the next fix replacing business hubs and maker spaces. Large organisations like to associate themselves with the fluid creativity of the freelance entrepreneurs who skirt around the established businesses. Cities and places want to build a reputation of forward thinking. So they collaborate with large organisations and universities to build new hubs around the coworking tribes. Coworking done right, is potentially a large part of the future of work in a place. Because it is based on the happiness of the workers not the profitability of the real estate.
Changing face of work
The speed of change in the future of the type of work we do is staggering. McKinsey (2017) estimate that 49 percent of the activities that people are paid to do in the global economy have the potential to be automated by adapting currently demonstrated technology. Antony Slumbers predicts the fall of white collar workers will be as dramatic as the fall of agricultural labourers in the industrial revolution. This could make modern office blocks as redundant as water mills, steam engines and giant retail sheds. The reason for this is that the workers who find a place in the new world order will be more valuable than the real estate left from the old world.
The GCUC 2019 conference highlighted that office space of the future will have to be designed to accommodate the businesses that are thriving rather than to benefit the landlords of a real estate of a different era.
Instants 4 pillars of workplace happiness
The Instant Group highlights the four pillars of workplace happiness as people, collaboration, flexible working and wellbeing. All offices catering for businesses should be looking to meet these pillars.
The future face of coworking and place
The four pillars will be part of any design brief for coworking space. The trick will be to balance these with the changing needs of the businesses within that space. Dan Jackson at the Guild is doing just that. Working with the wonderful guilders who inhabit this space he is co-designing a space for the future. The Guild is all about people who are willing to collaborate with each other as and when the opportunity arises. Flexible working is part of the guilders life and we all have each others wellbeing at heart.
Coworking is not a new hippy trend for free lancers it is a state of being for the future of work. If you want to know more give the Guild a shout.
Family and place
Family owned firms are critical to your place. Imaging loosing just under half your retailers, restaurants and hotels from your place. Statistics highlight the impact of family businesses on these sectors. According to the IFB 85% of all private businesses in the UK are family owned. 46% of all those employed in retail and wholesale work for family firms. Family owned hotel and restaurant businesses also account for 46% of the total employment in that sector.
How the ‘family business’ is lost in place consultations
It’s simple. Family businesses are involved in consultations but they are identified as retailers, hoteliers, restaurateurs or wholesalers. Numerous academic papers acknowledge that family businesses do have an impact on regional planning. They argue that the regional impact of family business may be down to a combination of the embeddedness of the family firm in their community and the role personal relationships play in local networks .
The academic argument on family business impact
Academic papers show that network roles and choices made by individuals within family businesses are different to those in non-family business. This is because family firms have a social and emotional attachment to their place, which is referred to as ‘socioemotional wealth’. Those with high socioemotional wealth tend have more positive impacts on their local community than non-family firms. In some cases family firms may value socioemotional wealth over financial performance. It should be noted that there is some evidence that this commitment to place, above financial reward, is not exclusive to family business. But family connection to place plays a key part in this decision .
The emphasis of public sector support for regional development on quantifiable measures such as GVA can identify the impact family firms have on place. However at times this may be overlooking the long term value of socioemotional wealth to that place.
Practical steps to ensure the longevity of family firms
Several organisations such as the Family Business Network and Family Business United celebrate the best of family businesses regionally and nationally. There are also others who work on supporting the successful transfer of a family business from one generation to another. Be the Business offer various levels of support or family businesses and are working on next generational family business workshops. Thomas Jardine & Co work with the Family Business Network and Be the Business and would be happy to put you in touch with either of these great organisations.
Bring place and family closer together
When making plans for the business sector in your place, please do not just focus on the standard industrial sectors. Consider the generational firms based in your place. Support them and encourage the birth of new family businesses in your place. Successful businesses that are based in a place will look after that place for generations to come.
First published in revive and Thrive
Future Support for Business
It’s the time of year we all tend to reflect on what’s just happened and plan for what we do differently. So, we thought we would share part of our thinking for an interview schedule we are using to identify the future support businesses may require.
All problems have a degree of impact on business from just plain annoying to ‘business killers’ that threaten the future of the business. Good businesses find solutions to these problems themselves or look to support from outside.
For these businesses there are two types of problems to focus on. These are the problems that stop them getting things done on a day to day basis and the problems that stop them from moving their business forward.
Good businesses have to be really good at problem solving and tend to have solutions for the day to day ‘business killer problems’ quickly (things like cash flow). They then manage those ‘day to day’ problems that have a higher degree of impact with dedicated internal resources or with trusted external expertise. These problems tend to revolve around market competition, regulations and skilled personnel. The problems that tend to need new solutions are those that are getting in the way of them taking up opportunities that could drive their business forward.
So, for part of our research we are asking our businesses to identify the opportunities that would have the greatest impact on their business. Then we are asking them if they can take advantage of this opportunity without support, if they can that’s great and the business can move forward. If they need support and they can identify where to get it from that is also good and shows that there is a network of support available for that business sector.
Short term and long term impacts
What will be concerning is if our businesses interviewed can see an opportunity that they can’t take advantage of because they don’t have either internal systems or external resources to support it. If our place cannot find a solution for these businesses then they will not take advantage of the opportunity they can see. This is not a problem in the short term but if we as a place continue to not offer relevant solutions then eventually our businesses will move to a place that can find these solutions. This is because the problems stopping businesses taking opportunities in the future eventually become the problems stopping businesses function on a day to day basis. For example, thirty years ago a problem with IT was not a ‘business killer’ now not linking your sales directly with your stock ordering could be.
Looking to 2019
So, looking back over 2018, what really got in the way of businesses based in your place? Then looking forward to 2019 what could stop them take advantage of those opportunities they see?
Could you have better helped them in 2018 and what are you planning to do to help them in 2019?
We at Thomas Jardine & Co are helping our place answer these questions, are you doing the same for your place?
Defining your local place is never easy especially when you come to setting a border where everything beyond is not local…. Think about the political boundaries that already exist from parish to local councils to counties to countries. All these political boundaries have an impact on your place. To fix the impact of these areas our politicians simply invent new areas our city fish (Carlisle) will see impacts from the new ‘ponds’ created from BREXIT to devolution to the LEPs to Northern Powerhouse to Borderlands and I am sure yours will be the same.
All these areas seek to redefine the pond in which our city fish swim, in some cases we (Carlisle) are bigger than one pond (parish councils) in others we are still a relatively large fish (Borderlands) and in others we start to feel like minnows (Northern Powerhouse).
The question I think we all need to ask ourselves is “do we treat the smaller fish in our pond in a way that we would want the larger fish to treat us?”. At one end of the ‘pond spectrum’ is the totally equitable approach to place management where every fish gets the same share of the collective food bank. At the other end is the idea that the pond needs to feed the big fish so that it can protect the smaller fish from any large fish from neighbouring ponds. Do you feel yourself moving towards the equitable argument when your in a really large pond and towards the support the big fish argument when you’re in a small pond?
I know it’s more complicated than that. Projects aimed at social change are arguably better based as close to the end user as possible so for instance, drop in centres and community spaces all need to be spread across the pond. Whilst funded capital projects concentrated on one or two projects could arguably create anchors that would attract either visitors or employers to an area. This was certainly the argument back in the day of anchor stores for high streets or anchor multinational firms for industry strategy , times are changing as I heard at a meeting recently “ one large factory does not a local economy make” and the prospect of House of Fraser leaving our High Street demonstrates the lack of control your local area has over national retail chains. Having said that, focused action that is directly linked to your local area can have huge impact on your place, from May-July we were fortunate enough to host the ‘weeping window’ poppy display that poured over our castle keep and this has definitely increased the number of visitors to our area. The display originally set up at the Tower of London has toured the country for the last four years and Carlisle Castles connection as a recruitment base during the First World War meant we were fortunate enough to be one of the hosts for this magnificent thought provoking display.
As we all negotiate our share of the pond perhaps we should reflect the reason for the poppy display. The display in Carlisle is there because of the 23,000 recruits who passed through the castle during the First World War, 7,000 paid the ultimate sacrifice and died defending their pond. When those running the pond get it wrong, it’s often the fish that pay the price.
So the next time you feel like a fish in a pond , ask yourself :are you allowing enough of a share for your smaller neighbours and are you also supporting your bigger neighbours as they stand up for your pond.