We even counted some of them back…

Mary Portas clearly believes that the death of the High Street is much exaggerated. Whatever you may think about her, there is no doubt that her involvement is leading to some really high profile initiatives, and criticism!

We have provided on the ground support for several of the Portas Pilot projects. The research we do helps to create a picture for mayors, town councils, town centre managers as well as retailers. Who are the people who come into their towns to shop, where do they come from and why? We use a combination of footfall counting and collecting postcodes combined with some very basic Likert scale questions.

Likert scaling is a bipolar scaling method, often on a 5 point scale, from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree” in response to a statement. You can also use an even point scale so that the middle option of “Neither agree nor disagree” is not there. Some researchers think that when a respondent is unsure they find this neutral option is the easy one so it might be a ‘cop out’. By removing it, in effect one forces a respondent not to sit on the fence.

Spending a day counting shoppers is a fascinating window onto the retail world from those dashing to or from the hole in the wall to those clearly taking a whole afternoon course of retail therapy. How many times do we count the same person walking past us, sometimes, spookily, from the same direction twice in succession?

Towns use this information from Portas pilot projects to help develop promotional strategies – sometimes for whole town centres and sometimes for specific areas or events such as the weekly market. We are keeping a watching brief on the reaction to the information and the plans put forward by the towns.

We might even see our interviewers on telly one day!