Sometimes. By careful selection of the tenant mix, owners of modern shopping centres have understood the additional draw of grouping clusters of specific retail offerings. Although more challenging arranging retrospectively on an existing high street it is possible by close working between property owners and the wider business community. For example:
A book town is a town or village with a large number of second-hand bookshops sometimes combined with literary festivals of which Hay-on-Wye is the most famous. Hay has changed from a small market town into a mecca for second-hand book lovers and this transformed the local economy. A number of book towns are organised in the International Organisation of Book Towns.
Over the past two decades, Old Spitalfields Market has again established itself as a thriving market. A visitor to the market stalls and independent shops can find that hidden jewel, from jewel encrusted vintage boots, art deco sofas to rare vinyl for enthusiasts. At the end of 2005, after 18 years of sensitive preparation, the Spitalfields regeneration programme was completed. This regeneration has resulted in the creation of two new public spaces, Bishops Square and Crispin Place, a public art programme, an events programme, the restoration of several historic streets in E1 and a selection of carefully selected new retailers and restaurants. Spitalfields is no longer considered just a Sunday destination it has evolved into one of London's favourite and most vibrant areas. It is also a serious fashion destination.
The guru of clusters is Michael Porter and his theories have been used the world over to support nations, regions or town and city centres to use these drivers to support economic growth. Most relevant here is his work at the Initiative for the Competitive Inner City although he tends to look at broader business sectors than just high street retail his findings are highly relevant to our high streets and town centres. ICIC recommend the use of a cluster led approach to find market opportunities and focus business attraction and retention efforts; promote anchor institutions as key economic and community drivers; and accelerate business development by improving access to captital and providing business and management education for business owners and connecting them to procurement and supply chain networks.
In a retail context our traditional high streets could learn from modern shopping centres approach to clusters and 'tenant mix'. Research suggests that whilst modern centres have not achieved a high level of sophistication in this area they do tend to focus and shape marketing strategies with clear priority targets and are increasingly looking at ways and means that individual tenants can work with each other and the centre landlord to achieve common marketing and business development goals. An obvious way to manage this process on high streets would be through a Business Improvement District in which one of the objectives was to build a specific niche or cluster to ensure wider catchment.