Researcher: Philip Turner
Supervisors: AbuBakr Bahaj and Despoina Teli

City centre retail spaces are integral to the sustainability of cities. In recent years there has been growing concern for the state of secondary and tertiary city centre retail streets which in the UK are perceived as historical pre-war arteries. Furthermore retail-led regeneration, where a large-scale shopping centre is introduced into the inner city region, has led to a shift in the centre of gravity of the city further exaggerating these streets isolation further reducing permeability and poor connections. Whilst there has been much research on primary retail (high streets and shopping centres), there is a recognised need for academic studies on secondary areas. The purpose of this work is to test and quantify the impact of small-scale urban interventions on declining secondary high streets with particular attention given to understanding and adapting stakeholders’ behaviours and perceptions.  

The project used a case study in the City of Southampton as it is one of the first cities in the UK to experience a city centre retail-led regeneration scheme and exhibits many of the factors affecting declining secondary retail streets. The study centred on East Street in Southampton and gathered quantitative and qualitative data through three methods of data collection; surveys/interviews, observational studies and analysis of secondary data. The analysis revealed the intricacy of intervening in a single street and the conflicts that arose. The findings highlighted that small-scale urban interventions, particularly those that show the environment can be adapted and stimulated, are a means to develop ownership from businesses and develop relationships among stakeholders. The results also revealed that small-scale interventions, through increasing visitor motivation and opportunity, were an effective means of introducing secondary areas to new consumers, which is of importance as habitual visiting behaviour was found to not be as easily altered as perceptions. The research recommended that (a) retail areas should be considered on a micro-scale as opposed to the city centre level and (b) urban interventions for retail areas should not be solely measured by impact on vacancies and footfall but also in terms of perception and behaviour change. Overall, in order to regenerate a struggling retail environment their capacity to adapt needs to be understood, discerning whether there is sufficient support for change and whether retailers require enhanced opportunities or capabilities to enact change, which can be achieved through trialling small-scale urban interventions such as those undertaken in this thesis. Although this study considered a single city retail area, the extensive literature review of many secondary street cases showed that the results and recommendations are generalizable for many cities in the UK.