At We Are Acuity we like to keep an eye on the High Street. Watford’s wonderful High Street is our nearest and dearest kept vibrant thanks to the wonderful work of Watford Borough Council, WatfordBID and numerous other hard-working people and businesses. But what about further afield?
It's obviously been a tumultuous time for physical businesses over the last two years and that came on top of the significant pressure of e-commerce. But Britain as a ‘nation of shopkeepers’ and entrepreneurs is nothing if not doggedly determined, resilient and adaptable in the face of adversity.
So how has it played out for the nation’s high streets over the last two years? Well thanks to experimental Ordnance Survey (OS) High Street data and the Office for National Statistics (ONS) data we now have a window on what is actually going on across our great nation.
This is only possible because of the wealth of amazing (and trustworthy) information available across the country thanks to some brilliant institutions. A few weeks ago, we talked about the fascinating Census21 from ONS giving us amazing insights into the changes in our population in the last ten years.
This week let’s look at Ordnance Survey (OS). Many of you of a certain age will remember adventures with one of their fantastic maps in the car or on foot? They never seemed to fold back in quite the same way as they had when you bought them?
Well did you know as the national mapping service of Great Britain, OS manages largest and most authoritative geospatial database in the world? Founded in 1791 the database now contains over half a billion geographic features, 247,800 miles of road and over 40 million addresses, and it’s updated over 20,000 times a day.
So we’ve got the data, right? Err, well it’s not quite as simple as that. Because there isn’t actually a standard definition of a high street. Sure, there are streets named High Street, but they aren’t always still the primary shopping area, and sometimes a town may have more than one primary shopping area. It certainly wasn’t simple, so the first job was to define what a high street was.
A high street is generally considered a location that people visit to shop, eat, and drink. In other words, ‘retail’ so they searched for clusters of retail. To refine things, it was then decided at least 15 retail addresses within 150m of each other would be needed. And using spatial cluster analysis – with street names – they identified linear (straight line) clusters to further refine things to actual high streets. Luckily the clever bods at OS and ONS have had a few years to work on this…
So, what did they find out? Well, this new ‘High Streets’ dataset shows there are over 6,500 high streets in Great Britain, and they are typically between 200 and 500m in length. The longest? London Road in Southend-on-Sea at 2,983m. The most common names after High Street? Market Place, Market Street, Station Road, London Road, and Church Street. Some real clues to our history there.
Reviving towns and high streets is a key government priority and this dataset has helped provide new insights about local needs and will underpin the monitoring and evaluation of the Future High Streets Fund, the Towns Fund, Heritage Action Zone Funds, the Coastal Communities Fund and wider regeneration work
To discover more about your local high street, or any other high street in Great Britain, including the length of road, the number of residential buildings, offices, retail buildings or leisure and community buildings, visit the OS user-friendly high street demo here.
If you'd like to find out more about how to activate your brand with high street audiences get in touch with We Are Acuity. You can book a FREE 30 minute chat here. We'd love a chat, even if it is just to discuss a mutual love of local retail.
Or if you'd like to read more about Local Marketing have a look at our blog page "Local Thinking': https://www.weareacuity.com/local-thinking-our-blog