Town centre managers have started to adopt the town centre management theories in order to promote and benefit their towns/cities. In the current climate there is increased competition between towns and cities to attract tourists and also to attract residents. With key cities such as London, Manchester and Edinburgh having a strong representation, it is evident that the smaller towns and cities need to compete and promote what they have.
Due to time and length restrictions in this report the key focus has been on Chester City Centre and the main attributes that the town has to offer, this town was chosen due to its strong direct competition with large cities such as Liverpool and Manchester as their local competitors. Analyses of their key stakeholders that are involved in the management scheme are reviewed along with perceptions of the town. Regional and National issues are addressed and how Chester have tackled this through their management scheme, if they have even made these issues part of their management.
Their management approach is reviewed using the above data and supports whether or not the management scheme is a successful approach. As it is a long term scheme in place that has to be nurtured and developed, a recommendation has been made to review this approach in the future when the management team have time to effectively implement their goals and strategies and review its effectiveness in more depth than has been address in this report.
Introduction: About Chester
Chester City centre is part of the Cheshire County. This consists of Cheshire West and Chester, Cheshire East, Warrington and Halton. Chester is a city in the North West of England and is also the county town of Cheshire which has been described as “the diamond in the UK’s crown,” Smith. B (2012). Due to the purposes of this assignment, a more specific in depth evaluation of Cheshire West and Chester – Chester City Centre has been chosen because according to Walsh, P (2001) there is limitation on the amount of areas that can be targeted for intensive intervention under one management scheme and therefore it is partly a function of the availability of resources to mount an intensive intervention across a large number of areas.
The town is situated on the River Dee, on the border with Wales; Chester is one of the best preserved medieval walled cities in the UK which has become a tourist landmark for the town. It is the largest and most populous settlement within the wider Chester District and has a population of more than 80,000. Chester is perhaps most notable for its successive historic uses and occupations, and the subsequent variety of architectural monuments found within the settlement, Chester Chronicle, (2012).
Chester has its own Regeneration body, Chester Renaissance, whose main job is to market and promote the town. This company holds its own set of objectives and have called it Chester’s ‘one plan strategy’ for the next 15 years, cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk, (2012). Chester’s marketing regeneration body have taken a strategic management approach, Wells’ (1991), which concentrates on the redevelopment of the centre. Alternatively, they could have taken a more operational approach which concentrates at the day-to-day management, such as the maintenance and policing of the centre, Wells’, (1991). Ultimately this report will research into how effective Chester’s chosen approach actually is.
According to Cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk, (2012) the management team involved in managing the town are currently striving to attract and greatly increase the number of people visiting Chester. They want to develop and maintain a positive relationship whilst sending out a positive message around the city; this is why it is an upcoming place to live, work and visit. It is an interesting town, and it has undergone a transformation using their town management process to promote itself as the better place against its rivals, Liverpool and Manchester.
On a national and regional scale Warnaby, Alexander & Medway, (1998) believe that competitive pressures are one of the major factors providing an impetus to the initiation of town centre management schemes, however in the case of retailing they continue by highlighting that the most significant competition is that which exists between and within towns at a regional or sub-regional level. Liverpool and Manchester have established themselves as key competitors for Chester, but more recently an issue has become increasingly threatening toward Chester’s retail stores, especially their independent stores. This is including the use of ‘out of town’ retail developments, with one key competitor recently being the Trafford centre for example. The North West collectively responded to this threat by creating a ‘Project Sunrise’, which is a small working group comprising of members from the ATCM’s North West region, Warnaby & Medway, (2004). The impact of ‘out of town’ was not as strong as first thought, and the most effective elements taken from this campaign was the high quality press releases and media-coverage. This raised public awareness of the “concept” of shopping “locally”, Warnaby, Alexander & Medway, (1998). Therefore in order to tackle the threat of regional out of the town movement Chester town centre must create an emphasis on their local shops and uniqueness of independent retailers to give them a competitive advantage. There are further challenges that have not been addressed within this report due to length constraints such as retail warehouse parks, factory outlet centres and Internet shopping, Otsuka & Reeve, (2007). It is vital that a management scheme takes into account the regional issues and builds solutions into their local objectives. Chester has done this by tackling a current unemployment problem, and have developed more business opportunities and provided more jobs, this is supported by Kleinman, (1998) who believes that “local initiatives must be supported by the right kind of policies at regional and national levels.”
Chester City’s main attributes:
De Nisco, A, Riviezzo, A, Napolitano, M.R, (2008) used a framework that was described by Warnaby and Davies (1997) as a ‘bundle of benefits’ to define the overall town centre offer. It was based around the customers’ experience that is influenced by the following factors:
 Accessibility: including the efficiency and adequacy of parking, public transportation, and car and walking streets. Parking in Chester is the same as in other major cities, congestive and frustrating – “The use of family cars for shopping has increasing importance to our customers. Where local authorities have recognised this need and worked with retailers to improve parking facilities and good access roads”, Schiller, R (1994). A scheme has been created in Chester specifically for residents, visitors visiting households that qualify may also apply for a permit within the scheme. Constraints with transport have also been implemented around the city in order to retain and protect Chester’s centre. There is a limited non retail offer and therefore outside of shopping hours the use car parks and transport dramatically decrease.
 Quality of life: promoting economic advantage and improving quality of life, the two most important objectives of place marketing activity (Burgess, 1982). Crime/ Security/ Road cleaning: Policing in Chester holds prioritise for the month of November 2012, Cheshire.police.uk, (2012). In particularly, the policing in the city centre are concentrating on retail theft and purse theft.
Figure 1: A pie chart representing Chester’s crime breakdown into specific areas. The largest area is anti-social behaviour, which will include incidents such as graffiti. In order to tackle this, the police have set up the Heritage Crime Programme, heritagecrime.blogspot.co.uk, (2012). It is designed to protect the cities key marketing attribute, its heritage and city walls.
Figure 1 Retail offer: Chester’s City centre retail offer consisting of large multi-national and national scale ‘high street brands’ as well as a number of specialist and independent traders. However, in recent years Chester has struggled to compete with the substantial levels of investment in flagship shopping facilities such as the Trafford Centre, Liverpool One, and Cheshire Oaks, Chester One City Plan, (2012).
 Leisure, cultural and public utility services: Apart from the shopping culture in Chester, there are also more social events such as visiting Chester zoo, clubs and pubs such as Lock keeper bar and Number fifteen, with the highest rating on chesternights.com, (2012). There is also the famous cathedral to visit, and seasonal events such as Christmas markets.
 Heritage and artistic aspects and their valorisation: Famous heritage sites include Chester’s cathedral, Chester castle and City baths. Chester’s cultural and heritage infrastructure is currently in decline and in a state of poor repair, suffering from years of underinvestment. Protecting these elements are shown as Chester’s objectives.
 Marketing strategy: Branding, or as said by Skinner, (2008) “place branding” who uses the term to better clarify the linking to a place’s promotional activities, contextualised in the domain of marketing communications. Chester’s approach is about promoting what they are planning for the future in terms of developments, but also what they currently have that makes them a successful city, its history. “This is about action and what we do not just what we say,” WhyChester.com, (2012).
Chester Brand – Vibrant History, Dynamic Future, WhyChester.com, (2012).
On the other hand, Anholt, S (2008) argues that there appears to be no evidence to suggest that using marketing communications to influence international public perceptions of an entire city, region or country is anything other than a vain and foolish waste of taxpayer’s money.
This could question whether all the time and effort paid by taxpayers is inevitably worth it.
Place Marketing in Chester
Warnaby et al, (2002) describe place marketing as the responsibility of a range of actors from public, private and voluntary sectors that collaborate in order to implement entrepreneurial activities. Chester uses place marketing to draw attention away from the large out of town shopping centres and back into the centres, one way they instigate this to get customers and visitors back into the city is via their tourist website, www.visitchester.com, (2012).
The target audience for the use of their visitor website is primarily tourists and visitors to the town. It encourages and promotes the private sector stakeholders involved in town centre management shown by Medway et al, (2000), such as retailers, property owners, restaurants, pubs and clubs, hotels and leisure facilities.
This resembles nationally what the Chester is attempting to achieve with their management strategy competitively against all other cities which coincides with Kotler, Haiden and Rein, (1993:346) who believe that places need to learn how to think like businesses developing products, markets and consumers. Chester’s competitive advantage through digital media – the VisitChester.com website, also competes for mobile investment, Lever, (1999). For leisure investment, it targets tourists that come to Chester to visit relatives, days out or holidays. According to VisitBritain.com, (2012) over a three year period from 2009-2011, 411,000 tourists in total visited Chester; with 139,000 tourists’ visiting friends or relatives; and 152,000 tourists’ coming for a holiday. This encourages the retail stakeholders to get more involved in Town Centre Management. The advertising through the website looks at the best hotels, restaurants and places to visit during their stay.
Kotler et al, (1999) created a four stage marketing process for TCM. The four stages that relate to Chester are:
 Analysis – audit of external environment opportunities and threats and internal strengths and weaknesses.
SWOT analysis of Chester: adapted from Investincheshire.com (2011)
Congestion in and out of the city and to other major neighbouring towns/cities.
Scarcity of jobs in former Congleton, Ellesmere Port and Neston districts.
Lack of enterprise culture in Ellesmere Port & Neston.
House prices are higher in comparison to wages.
Local concentrations of severe deprivation/ high unemployment in larger towns and cities, some neighbourhoods with high levels of disability/poor health.
Strong presence of high technology, high skill sectors such as chemicals, pharmaceuticals and nuclear.
Local strength within other sectors i.e. car industry. Not reliant on the public sector.
New and upcoming business sites, increasing employment in the city.
Economic strength – business investment will be a key focus for the TCM.
Unique visitor attractions – Chester race course, amphitheatre, rows of shops, city walls and cathedrals. Also has good transport links for local competitive towns, such as Manchester and Liverpool.
More investment for the local business will only result in growth.
Creating employment opportunities in area where jobs are scarce and there are limited prospects for future employment growth.
Attracting and retaining more high-skill labour. Keeping and retaining graduates from Chester University.
Affordable housing for residents in the city.
Economic growth is only a short term solution.
Impact of ageing population and declining number of young working-age adults.
Weak economic climate/ or global competition leading for further job losses in key sector’s and slow overall job growth.
Relocating/ off shoring of high technology sector activity.
Inadequate support and advice for businesses
More outward commuting of high skilled residents.
Rising levels of CO2 emissions across Cheshire.
 Identification of Chester’s objectives to be developed includes 2 criteria – Internal and External:
Internal – Creating a leading regional economic driver – Supporting local creativity, learning and entrepreneurs. Encouraging inward investment and stimulating business growth. Providing modern living – a vibrant, distinctive and dynamic place to live for its residents.
External – Developing and supporting – a cultural, retail and visitor offer of the highest quality.
External – Celebrating its long varied history and heritage – protecting, promoting and utilising its assets, to enhance their settings and maximise their full potential.
Internal – Maximising the opportunities to use the network of green spaces and waterways – Improving residents’ quality of life, providing ecological services, and reducing the impact of climate change.
Figure 2: Identified objectives plotted using Kotler et al, (1999) Typology of TCM scheme marketing objectives.
The objectives presented by Chester’s marketing group have been plotted within the four quadrants shown. It does show that their priority is to get businesses to the city to promote one of their key strengths as a town, their economic growth. In doing so, this will provide jobs and benefit residents, Warnaby et al, (2005). When considering the tourism sector, Chester’s objectives are based around another key strength, their history and culture, their long standing permanent architecture can also be used as an advantage and a long term marketing tool.
 Implementation – as the third stage, it has been divided into three categories: Footfall drivers, Participation builders and Awareness builders.
Figure 3 below shows the long term and short term activities planned by the marketing company Chester Renaissance. These involve two types of activities from a retail perspective i.e. store discounts or fashion events, and then a business development perspective i.e. Networking events, business promotion directories. The majority of events focus mainly on a retail perspective; this is due to their agreement with the view cited by Warnaby et al, (2005) “that retailers are an important place marketing actor”.
Figure 3: Chester marketing activities undertaken by TCM schemes, Kotler et al, (1999).
* Cheshire Oaks Christmas light switches on. * Lantern magic at Chester zoo. * Chester’s Victorian Christmas market. * Chester’s Christmas tours * Saturnalia Parade – City centre. * Chester food and drink festival.
* Christmas promotions include 15,000 shopping map leaflets,
Chronicle supplement, posters, competitions and online promotions with Marketing Cheshire.
*Residential cycle loans.
* Novus Young Professionals ltd. Chester based networking organisations.
* The best of Chester – local business directory and events guide to the best of Chester.
* Customer loyalty with a ‘Charisma card’. Getting visitors and retailers involved through a discount scheme.
* Chester Fashion week.
* Customer surveys
The PEST analysis has been adapted to show Chester’s key attributes the city has to offer, and how these attributes and activities have impacted and affected Chester’s management scheme positively and negatively, which will establish how successful their current marketing is.
Positive effects on Chester
Negative effects on Chester
40.6% of the city voted conservative in the last election. Guardian.co.uk (2012)
The majority of the city that voted were successful and are happy with the current MP.
Coalition government in Britain may cause conflict overall.
Council hopes to apply for Responsible Drinking Zone, cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk (2012)
Will stop street drinkers at night and increase safety around the town.
Could deter potential trade for local clubs and bars.
New business quarter opening in Chester. Cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk, (2012)
Is set to create over 1,100 new jobs in the city.
Potential to divert custom and business away from the more smaller central independent stores and businesses.
Within the quarter: New residential development, Shot Tower and Former Leadworks. Cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk, (2012)
A new residential redevelopment. Improved living conditions and increase potential settlers in the city.
Potential to divert custom and business away from the more smaller central independent stores and businesses.
Waitrose Scheme – The supermarket chain plans to create a new store and hotel on the site of the former Boughton Retail Centre. Cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk, (2012)
More new jobs brought to the city. Increased shopping variety for local residents and businesses to take advantage of the new hotel.
Potential to divert custom and business away from the more smaller central independent stores and businesses.
New theatre and culture centre to be built with 2 theatres and the city library. BBC News (2012)
Will bring a more unified view on Chester as a cultural city for the future.
Could potentially divert away the historical elements of the city by adding modern architecture in the city.
Chester Races held every year.
Continually brings money to the city, £1.2 million in tourism revenue for the city. Chester-races.co.uk, (2011).
Chester races can also bring more drunk and disorderly tourists to the city, disturbing the quaint image.
Chester FC promoting themselves through the leagues.
Fans and local residents are continually supporting the club; after the club went into administration. They supported throughout and have now regained themselves back into the league.
If the club had financial problems again, they could lose the support of the fans and lose a strong social community.
New Technology centre being built by 2013 with the help of Bank of America’s. BBC News, (2011)
Bank of America creates thousands of new jobs in the city by locating their European technology and operations centre in Chester.
MBNA credit card business losing more jobs
Official City of Chester guide mobile phone app, VisitChester.com, (2012)
Makes it easier for tourist to navigate around the city, and book hotels, attractions easily. Allows the VisitChester company to continually update the app with relevant and changing information.
Promoting the city as historical, may bring an older generation which do not use this type of marketing.
 Control – consists of measuring and evaluating the results of the plans and taking corrective action where necessary to ensure the objectives are met.
Hogg, S (2001) highlighted that the evaluation of marketing activities is generally “ad hoc and reliant on anecdote”, primarily because of financial considerations. As one respondent cited in Hogg,S (2001) “I don’t think anything is actually built into the costs with town centre management”, meaning that formal evaluation of marketing activity was virtually unknown perhaps?
Footfall for October 2012 within Chester City increased by 6% from 2011-12. This is supporting their marketing strategy to increase visitors to the city. However there was evidence to suggest that consumer confidence has decreased due to the current economic climate and more consumers will be shopping online, Cheshirewestandchester.gov.uk, (2012). As the plan has only just been established and is slowly regenerating the city over the next 15 years, it has the potential to be reviewed on its effectiveness.
The Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM), Medway et al., 2000 indicates that three main categories of stakeholders should be involved in TCM initiatives:
(1) Public sector – local authorities, police, public transport, tourist agencies, emergency services, training and enterprise councils, schools, colleges and universities, leisure centres.
(2) Private sector – retailers, banks/building societies, chambers of commerce, transport operators, property owners, estate agents, restaurants and cafes, pubs and night clubs, leisure facilities, hotels, solicitors and other professionals.
(3) Voluntary sector – civic societies, conservation groups, disabled groups, residents’ groups.
Figure 4: The linkage model in TCM developed by Grunig and Hunt (1984). http://www.canaryclaims.co.uk/wp-content/uploads/2011/03/alliance-leicester-logo.jpg
Examples of the stakeholders involved in Chester city centre using the Linkage model above.
Enabling linkages: Funding for Chester is available from a variety of sources, including Government Grants, National Lottery Good Causes, Charitable Trust and Foundations and Local ad-hoc grants. Landfill tax credit scheme, rural support grant and European Social funding, these funds also provide support for businesses wanting to bring business to Chester. Corporate members involved in funding Chester as a city include many businesses that have set up their headquarters within the city due to its strong financial representation. These businesses include: M&S money, thebestofchester, BE group, Urenco, Trinity Mirror Cheshire, DTM Legal, Chester University and Chester racecourse, Investincheshire.com, (2012).
Functional linkages, Investincheshire.com, (2012).
Input: Restaurants, The Peel group – transport and real estate company, The county homesearch company.
Output: Chester city residents, Tourists from neighbouring towns such as Liverpool, Manchester and also neighbouring countries. Groundwork Cheshire also supports Chester
Normative linkages: www.visitchester.com, www.visitbritain.com, Cheshire police, Miller developments, Natwest. Investincheshire.com, (2012).
Diffused linkages: Chester University, Manchester Metropolitan University, Mid Cheshire College. Investincheshire.com, (2012).
Perceptions of Chester:
As with any town/city, residents and visitors will have varying perceptions, that’s why it is important to use surveys in town, retail planning is important especially because all over the world decision making in this field is characterised by biased perceptions and conflicting interest groups, Monheim, R (1998). Negative perceptions have included a tourist posting in chavtowns.co.uk (2007), that they had experience a negative visit to Chester: “Come to Chester to see the best chav scum in the northwest, I have been spat at in the end street and called just about all their mother could teach themâ€¦it’s nice what you can see in an old English townâ€¦P.S I have been robbed two timesâ€¦nice place Chester.”
Residents have also raised some negative concerns about the nightlife of Chester: “The scales are being tipped for the residents. They now feel the commercial ambitions of the licensed trade and the increased fall-out from that trade in terms of noise, nuisance, and anti-social behavior in the middle of the night, now outweighs their quality of life,” Chester Chronicle, (2012).
On the other hand, there are positive perceptions of Chester also which mainly come from the tourist industry and people that visit Chester. One repetitive local visitor advised positively on someone moving to Chester writing: “You have no need to worry about safety at any of the locations; Chester’s a very safe city. If you intend to stay in the city centre it is vital to find a property with off street parking, it’s a nightmare trying to find a parking spot in the city centre,” Trip Advisor (2009).
Overall, most of the negative feedback comes from the nightlife of Chester and most reviews about the retail and government aspects appear positive. With regards to the marketing strategy and the ‘one city plan’, as this is a long term strategy over the next 15 years and has only very recently been implemented, research highlights no faults or perceptions at present. However, as the strategy evolves and it will become evident how successful it has been, and therefore this can be further reviewed in the future.
Chester’s management strategy has been the responsibility of their marketing company who are driving the ‘one plan strategy’, Cheshire Renaissance. This shows the direction that the district, county and town want to be heading in. As an economy, is appears that we are gradually coming out of a recession and still the numbers for unemployment are high. It is evident that Chester is helping to tackle a regional and global issue within their strategy with the ability to drive their business district forward and consequently create more jobs. The marketing toward this appears to be diverted toward bringing new residents, tourists and visitors to the city. On the other hand, there is a slight risk that in doing this, the current residents may feel neglected and disperse from the city. This is supported by their strategic approach over their operational approach. However due to the high neighbouring competition from cities such as Liverpool, Manchester there is a risk of losing the visitors that bring the money into Chester. There can only be hope that supporting the businesses and landscapes, i.e. waterways in the town is sufficient enough to keep the current residents in the city and that they are not forgotten about. Looking at the perceptions, there is strong support from visitors and tourists, however from the research shown there appears to be a danger that the local residents do not seem to have much of a voice which is paramount to any city.
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