Why the Local Data Company is wrong on Wandsworth

Partly empty for redevelopment: the Southside shopping centre.

The Local Data Company (LDC) have named Wandsworth as the third-worst town centre for shop vacancies. It has become a depressingly regular story from them and a matter we’ve raised with them several times before.

Their argument is that shops are empty and, therefore, they are reflecting the actual position.

However, this ignores the wider context. In the case of Wandsworth, as we have pointed out to them several times, the large numbers of vacant units are largely a result of a planned redevelopment of the Southside shopping centre.

The shops are not closed because Wandsworth is in “a spiral of decline” as their report might imply, but in preparation for a multi-million pound investment.

Sadly, LDC have chosen not to include this sort of information with their data; so their product is less than accurate and a successful town centre is unfairly tainted.

Of course, we aren’t the only ones to suffer this. A quick Google reveals that Stockport, named as the worst ‘large centre’ felt the LDC report was “at best confusing and at worst inaccurate”.

The second worst large centre, Nottingham is in the same position as Wandsworth, with units empty ahead of redevelopment.

I’m sure there are many more who feel unfairly treated.

You might choose to blame the media for sensationalising the facts. However, when the originator of the data fails to provide the context despite being fully aware of it (when I first contacted them they suggested he would “commit to work much closer with” us… if we were a client) then it’s not that surprising that headlines like “spiral of decline”, “dying high streets” or “future looks bleak” are associated with town centres that have a bright future.

Worse still is the timing. Wandsworth is unfairly tarred as a failing centre just before redevelopment, exactly when people should feel encouraged to invest in Wandsworth with confidence.

Clearly there are some town centres that are declining, that is the nature of retail business and shopping habits. However it’s disappointing when a those with a bright future are lumped in with those that are failing.

Unfortunately, for us and the other centres in a similar position, it seems the Local Data Company aren’t that interested in applying local knowledge to their products.

  • Matthew Hopkinson

    As ever Mr Cousins fails to acknowledge our independent methodology that I have explained many times. Mr Cousins please take a shoppers view and not one of political self interest. All towns are in transition but you need to know where you are and not hood wink the public with ‘but it will be’ etc. I look forward to reporting a national lowest vacancy rate once you have redeveloped – when will this be?

    Matthew Hopkinson

    • http://jamescousins.com James Cousins

      My apologies if you misunderstood my concern.

      In order to be fair, the independent methodology involves hiring people to walk high streets and shopping centres, noting the status of shops and taking photos where they are permitted.

      In many ways like a shopper, who I’d argue are able to see whether shops are opened or closed as well as an LDC researcher.

      Indeed, a quick straw poll of shoppers this morning (which are most people, after all) showed that they don’t need a report to know the state of their high street, but they are concerned about what the future holds, will it improve or decline?

      However, as I’m sure you know, what is more important is that potential investors have confidence in places like Wandsworth. That confidence is not created by a report that fails to provide any local context or analysis (and I recognise your previous offer to look at that if we become a client) but instead results in a media narrative of decline and crisis.

      I stand by my point that by failing to provide any context to your data you fail to give an accurate picture of Wandsworth, and many other town centres. And if wanting to see the borough’s town centres accurately is “political self-interest” it’s a badge I will wear with pride.

      With regards to the Southside redevelopment, planning permission was granted last year and work starts this year, with some tenancies already signed. You will have to ask the owners, Metro, for the precise timings; I’m more than happy to try and set up a meeting if it will help you produce a more accurate product when you come to republish.

  • David Curran

    Southside in Wamndsworth don’t really help themselves to be honest – until fairly recently anyone wal;king down the Arndale Walk part of the centre would see a huge number of boarded up units with no real explanation as to why it was such a mess or what was on the way.   This is bound to filter through to investors and people scoping units, and may have more weight than LDC’s reports in practice.  This seems to have improved under the curtrent owners – but they’re still fairly quiet about the signings (Wagamama, Cattle Grid, Rossopomodoro confirmed and – subject to planning – a huge M&S) – I’d have thouyght they’d have artists’ impressions of what is in planning all over the boarded up parts of the centre, but curiously not. 

  • Pingback: Extending Southside()

  • Pingback: Portas, Putney and high street cash()

  • Pingback: Wandsworth is a growing town centre()