1st Edition

High Street How our town centres can bounce back from the retail crisis

By David Rudlin, Vicky Payne, Lucy Montague Copyright 2023
    224 Pages
    by RIBA Publishing

    The high street is in crisis. How did we get here and what happens next? The global pandemic has made the crisis immeasurably worse but it wasn’t the cause. The crisis was already raging in 2019 with thousands of store closures. Large retailers became complacent and failed to respond to changing consumer behaviour. Town centres are the victims of these changes rather than the cause of them. To understand the current crisis and how it might be addressed, this book takes a long view of retailing based on a hundred case studies. It looks at the way town centres responded to previous crises and explores current trends affecting town centres and how places are responding. The message is optimistic: adaptable town centres can once more become the diverse, characterful, independent places that existed before they were homogenised by big retail. Explore the past – understand the present – find a better future.


    PART 1: The Roots of the Crisis

    1. Places of exchange

    2. Death by supermarket

    3. Heading Out of Town

    4. From Boom to Bust

    PART 2: Future Retail

    5. Independent and Creative

    6. Grocers and Purveyors of Fine Food

    7. Food and Beverage

    8. Online and e-Commerce

    9. Sound and Vision

    10. Home and Garden

    11. Fashion and Beauty

    PART 3: Future High Street

    12. The City

    13. The Mall

    14. The Town

    15. The High Street

    Part 4: Conclusions

    16. Conclusions


    David Rudlin is a leading urbanist and author of the book Climax City, winner of Urban Design Group Book of the Year in 2020. He was a director of URBED for more than 30 years and is now Director of Urbanism at BDP. He is also a past Chair of the Academy of Urbanism and won the Wolfson Economics Prize in 2014. Together with Vicky Payne he has recently completed the National Model Design Code for the Government.

    Vicky Payne is a planner and urban designer working as Strategy, Research and Engagement Lead at the Quality of Life Foundation. She has extensive consultancy experience in strategic planning and urban design, including work with URBED on the Greater Manchester Spatial Framework and National Model Design Code. She is a regular contributor to the 50 Shades of Planning Podcast and has written for professional journals and her own blog.

    Dr Lucy Montague is Senior Lecturer at Manchester School of Architecture and Programme Leader of the MA Architecture & Urbanism. She researches widely across urban design and has particular expertise in research with, for and through practice. In 2019, Lucy founded the innovative URBED+ for research, advocacy and public engagement in urban design. She has previously held positions at The Bartlett, Huddersfield and Edinburgh, and worked internationally for consultancies in masterplanning, regeneration, retail and residential.