Merton Shopfronts SPD
client: Merton Council
During the last decade, internet shopping has taken an increasing market share in the UK, with online sales exceeding £116bn in 2015. Many high street retailers are experiencing the implications of this shift and are evaluating their business strategies to remain competitive.
What is unique about the high street is its distinct identity, a personal service and the convenience and flexibility of neighbourhood shopping. We know from high street customers that the visual appearance of shops and the quality of the retail offer directly impact on their decision to shop locally. The shop front is the identity of the shop – irrespective of the line of trade it pursues. It is also the single most effective marketing tool for most high street business. A well-ordered, tidy, contextual and cared-for appearance will almost always result in better business. Every shop front is also part of a wider urban context. It impacts on the way the host building is read and it contributes to the look and feel of the high street as a whole – even when a shop is closed and at night.
Merton Council is proud of its track-record in supporting local businesses. The Councils’ new supplementary planning guidance (SPD) is designed to be a practical and helpful manual for vendors, building owners, landlords and developers. The document includes character guidance for Merton’s key town centres and shopping parades to ensure any alterations maintain the distinct character of the area. The guide also provides useful case studies, process diagrams, colour swatches and technical information.
We know that many high street shops are unable to commission good design advice when replacing shop fronts and signage and that the planning process is perceived as a hurdle when budgets are tight. To help users make the right decisions, Merton’s SPD features an interactive pattern-book which allows users to self-generate scale planning drawings via a simple .pdf interface. As far as we are aware, Merton’s shop front guide is the first SPD in the UK using digital technology to simplify access to the planning service. The document is now subject to consultation with implementation scheduled for spring 2017.