Retail matters dominate the town agenda right now. A decision is to be made on the Rocks Green supermarket bid on Tuesday. Budgens is set to close – no date has yet been set – and we are expecting redevelopment of One Stop on Tower Street. Again, there is no date for this. Business rates are also due to soar for some businesses.
We have a busy town centre that for the most part works. We have both general purpose supermarkets and specialist local shops. Our streets are busy, even crowded. Most Ludlow residents visit the town centre at least once a week. You can’t say that about many small market town high streets these days – witness Leominster.
But we lack choice. Cheap clothing, and just being able to buy clothing locally, tops people’s agenda. It is hard to get other non-food goods at a decent price too.
We have data on this courtesy of Indigo Planning, which is advising on the Rocks Green scheme. The consultancy commissioned a telephone survey of 1,000 people in and around Ludlow. The results run to 160 pages. The survey covers a wide area, including some settlements for which Ludlow is not the main shopping town. In this article, I am concentrating on Ludlow itself, a sample of 214 people. This is not a huge sample but it is more data than we have from other sources.
I should also warn that this information is getting a bit dated. The survey was conducted in December 2013. We won’t have changed where we shop much since then but we will have increased purchases through the internet. There are also trends that suggest the weekly main food shop is being replaced by daily shopping. The Co-op on Upper Galdeford has been replaced by Budgens and back in 2013, we still had a Harry Tuffins on Foldgate Lane.
There are also some biases in the data. The sample interviewed a greater proportion of older people and more car drivers than we have in Ludlow’s population as a whole.
With those caveats, what does the Indigo survey data tell us?
The survey results
Main food shop. The survey shows that most of us do our main shopping in Ludlow, with Tesco taking the biggest share. Nine in ten of us do our main shopping in Ludlow, half of us at Tesco. A small number, one in twenty, do their main shop in local stores. Five out of six people visit more than one store for their main food shop. Again, the local supermarkets are the main destinations. Most people choose the store for their main food shop because it was convenient, cheap or close to home. A fifth of shoppers cited the range of goods as the main thing they liked about their main food store. One in eight cited friendliness of staff. Turning this in its head, those surveyed were also asked what they most disliked about where they do their main food shop. Half answered “nothing”.
Travelling. Seven in ten people travel to their main food shop in their own car, or in a friend’s or other car. Nearly of quarter of shoppers walk to the store and nearly all walk back home with their shopping. As would be expected, for non-food shopping more people travel by car and fewer walk.
Ludlow town centre. Ludlow’s high streets remain at the centre of town life. Nearly nine in ten of us visit the town centre at least once a week. More than half of people like the town centre as it is, though there is a strong call for a greater range of shops.
Spending. Nearly two-thirds of people do their main shop once a week. They spend an average of around £53 on their main shop.
Linked trips. Half of us often visit other shops while doing our main food shop. A quarter of us always visit other shops. Mostly we go to buy additional food. Banks and cafes, as well as purchase of non-food items, are also important reasons for visiting another shops or services alongside the main food shop.
Top-up shopping. Ludlow’s small stores benefit from people engaged in top-up shopping, as distinct from their main weekly or monthly shop. Nearly one third of top-up shopping is in smaller stores. Two in five top-up in the three supermarkets. Two-thirds of people drive to their top-up shop and nearly one third walk. Surprisingly few take the bus.
Clothing and household goods. Although we buy most chemist and personal care items locally, we buy most comparison goods outside of Ludlow. Four in five of us buy clothing and shoes elsewhere. The same number buy their clothes in Hereford.
What does the survey tell us?
We have confirmation of what we know and some different perspectives from this data.
The data show that on a food front, Ludlow town centre largely works. We have a synergy between the big name retailers, Tesco and Aldi, and our smaller shops.
The survey also shows what we all know. We can’t buy sufficient range of non-food goods in Ludlow. Clothing tops the list of wants. But we do well on DIY thanks to Homecare, Rickards and others.
This survey provides some information on how our town centre works. What it does not tell us is how we can increase retail choice while protecting our town centre.
Graphs and tables
At which one store do you normally
do your main food and grocery shopping?
Which other store do you visit to do your
main food and grocery shopping?
What is the main reason you choose to use this shop
for most of your main food shopping?
What, if anything, is the one thing you like most about
where you do you main food shop?
What, if anything, is the one thing you dislike most about
where you do you main food shop?
How do you normally travel to and from the
store used for your main food shop?
How do you usually travel to do your non-food shopping?
How often do you visit Ludlow town centre for any purpose?
Is there anything that would encourage you
to visit Ludlow town centre more frequently?
How often do you normally do main food shopping?
How much do you typically spend when undertaking
your main food shopping trip at your main store?
Do you normally visit other shops or services in the town centre
at the same time as your main food shopping trip?
Which of the following do you normally
combine with a main food shopping trip? Shopping for…
At which store do you normally undertake
top-up shopping for items such as milk and bread?
What is the main reason you chose
this store to do your top-up shopping?
In which town centre, shopping centre or other location
do you usually buy clothes and shoes?
In which town centre do you usually buy…?
See notes for definition of these categories.
. Zone 1 in the telephone survey. The survey is not wholly representative of Ludlow. The Zone 1 sample size of 214 is fairly small – though better than the 100 people used for many retail studies. There is an excess of car drivers in the sample; 16% of the those interviewed don’t have a car in their household compared to 25% across Ludlow town. The sample was also older than Ludlow as a whole: 41% of the respondents in the Zone 1 sample were aged 65 and over compared to 28% in Ludlow. My view from talking to people around the town is that younger people are more concerned about choice and price competition than older people. This means the survey underrepresents local demands for a greater range of retail facilities in the town.
. This is called top-up shopping – though of course it is not a top-up if you don’t do a main shop. How we fell out of love with the big weekly supermarket shop. Supermarkets must adapt as weekly shop dies out.
. The categories are: Food: Shopping for non-food items. Non-food: Shopping for other food items (including butcher, baker, deli, off-license, etc.). Services: Visit hairdressers/ dry cleaners or other services. Browsing: Window shopping / browsing. Food & drink: Visit cafes/ restaurants. Financial: Using financial services (bank, building society). Medical: Visit doctors/ dentists or collect prescriptions.
. Clothes: Clothes and shoes. Chemists: Chemist and personal care items such as cosmetics, etc. Books: Books, DVDs, CDs, and stationery, etc. Leisure: Recreational and leisure goods including toys, bicycles and accessories, hobbies and pet products, etc. Household: China, glass & home textiles (such as towels, linen, cutlery & crockery), etc. Electrical: Electrical goods, including household appliances and audio-visual goods (TVs, kettles, washing machines, fridges), etc. Furniture: Furniture, carpets and floor coverings. DIY: DIY/ hardware goods. Given the rise of download and streamlined media since December 2013 when the survey was conducted, the question on Books, DVDs, etc. is now very dated.