Case Study: Luton Town Centre – coming to terms with rejection
Town centre management at Luton briefed ROI Team to address key questions:
- Why are people living within easy travelling distance of Luton avoiding it as a shopping destination?
- Which communities close to Luton are ‘winnable territory’ – and which are a lost cause because of big demographic disparities?
- What changes would persuade these unwilling souls to visit Luton?
ROI Team employed a range of methods to develop understanding:
- Site visits to communities including pre-arranged and spontaneous interviews with community leaders
- Socio-demographic profiling of identified communities using publicly available information
- Professionally managed and facilitated Focus Groups, using exacting recruitment criteria agreed with the client.
- Antipathy to visiting Luton town centre is based on perception as much as reality
- Rejectors are making their decision based on visual prompts – litter, dark approach walks, boarded shops, street drinkers, hooded teenagers – that could easily be refreshed
- Poor local transport links make communities on Luton’s doorstep (like Dunstable) lost territory
- Wealthier towns within easy travelling distance reject Luton’s offer based on outdated perceptions (as above)
- Shopping in Luton has become largely a “distress decision”; other regional centres are preferred as lifestyle choices
- Perception has grown that stores in Luton have a more limited range than the same fascia in other centres.