Bridging Communities: Retail Managers as Boundary Spanners in Town Centre Environments
The evolution of town centres in the UK and across Europe is an issue of vital economic and social importance. The recent business management literature has concentrated almost exclusively upon a customer and marketing-based interpretation in terms of the contribution the discipline can make to current debate. In contrast, this research argues the need for a management-based perspective that focuses on a stakeholder group which is comparatively neglected despite an intimate knowledge of the town centre ecosystem, namely store managers. We aim to evaluate the activities of store managers related to their role as boundary spanners between customers, their retail head offices, and the management of the town centre, in the form of two town centre Business Improvement Districts (BIDs). Through this we can better understand store managers’ potential to contribute to vital and viable town centres. Based on the findings of a preliminary study we will investigate two types of boundary spanning activities: representational and informational including information relay related components. To explore the characteristics of each type of activity we propose to conduct 16 in-depth interviews with store managers reflecting the retail tenant mix of a smaller and a larger UK town centre BID, as well as 4 interviews with the respective BID management teams. The contribution of this project is to (1) explore the role of store managers as boundary spanners between their retail organisation, the town centre and its customers (2) critically examine their potential to reflect upon and inform decision-making in a town centre environment.