Borough council's 2015 town centre study found Northampton was underperforming for its size and struggling to attract visitors

Northampton town centre
Northampton town centre

A town centre study published three years ago found that Northampton lacked the premium shops to attract visitors and was underperforming for its size and catchment area.

A town centre study published three years ago found that Northampton lacked the premium shops to attract visitors and was underperforming for its size and catchment area.

Commissioned by Northampton Borough Council, the study by Peter Brett Associates took place after Primark and Next opened in Grosvenor Centre, and was published in July that year.

Its objective was to help present "policies and strategies to enhance the vitality and viability of the town centre".

"It is clear that Northampton has been found to be underperforming for the scale of the town and its catchment area," reads the report, which took into account previous studies carried out in the town centre dating from 2008-2012.

"The town centre has experienced significant competition from out-of-centre development and requires further premium comparison retail occupiers in order to attract visitors.

"The town centre retail offer does not align with the local demographics which demonstrate significant spending power amongst local residents."

While assessing the "health" of a town centre the study looked at diversity of shops, proportion of empty street level properties, commercial income of non-domestic properties, customers' views and behaviour, retailer representation and intentions to change representation, commercial rents, pedestrian flows, accessibility, perception of safety and occurrence of crime, and the town centre's environmental quality.

Market research found the most popular reason for a town centre visit was to use personal services (bank, hairdresser, solicitor etc). The second most popular reason was to buy non-food goods like shoes, clothes and jewellery.

A significant amount of visitors (69 per cent) travel to the town centre by car with only eight per cent of people travelling on foot.

Roughly a third of respondents said the main reason to visit the town centre was to use a bank, restaurant or other commercial leisure facilities. Notably, this was higher than the number of people coming primarily to shop.

Regular shoppers only visit the town monthly or less frequently.

The main reason for liking the town centre was that visitors found it convenient to access and appreciate its historic character while the main reason for disliking it was its “run-down” appearance.

Almost half said they never visited the town centre in the evening, with those that did mainly doing so to eat out.

People were also happy with the car park locations, the quality of the train station, the amount of pedestrianisation and the ease of movement around the town centre on foot.

The key areas for improvement were the cleanliness of the town centre and an improved range and quality of stores, including independent shops.

Three years on from the borough council-commissioned report, the Chron ran its own town centre survey and the results echo the findings of the 2015 study.

People still want to see an improvement in the cleanliness of the town centre and a better range of stores to fulfil shopping needs.

Meanwhile, independent retailers were held in high regard by those who answered our poll. The top five phrases used in 954 responses were “personal service”, “customer service”, “more personal”, “something different” and “better service”.

We asked you how frequently you visited shops in the centre and the most popular answer was once a month - 23.6 per cent - similar to the 2015 study.