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Retail, Shopping and Crime: Manchester

ToolsHouseBased on a paper entitled Shopping and Crime in Manchester written by Dr Lesley Mackay and edited by Dr Caroline Davey. For a full copy of this paper, click here (Microsoft Word document, 269kb)


An issue which has been crucial to the regeneration of Manchester has been improving retail in the city, which depends upon a good quality public realm and vibrant streets. The case study looks at how these goals have been approached and investigates the relationship between shopping, crime and fear of crime in Manchester city centre. Strategies to reduce crime and fear are examined, and recommendations are provided for Manchester City Council and the city centre management company.


In order to understand the design and construction of the retail experience, the recent history of Manchester needs to be considered, along with influencing factors on the development of retail experience in the city. The case study will look at the impact of the city centre regeneration and the development of out-of-town shopping centres, along with the impact of these factors on shopping and crime. Also looked at are the influences and constraints on the City Council to shape retail. The City Council, police, retailers, initiatives to reduce crime and the design of the environment are discussed.


Twelve interviews were conducted with 13 key individuals and conversations took place with individuals from the public and private sector. These conversations were conducted with people from four groups influencing city centre shopping:

1)      Those who determine the physical environment i.e. designers, planners and officials.

2)      Those who maintain, monitor and secure the physical environment i.e. car park and toilet attendants, security staff, police and street cleaners.

3)      Retail workers

4)      Those who are economically involved but not formally employed, i.e. Big Issue sales people, buskers and beggars.

Researchers also attended local events, conferences and presentations. Observations were conducted in the city centre, including patterns of ATM use throughout the day. Literature reviews were conducted, websites were consulted and archive searchers were undertaken as part of background research.


The shopping experience is integral to the city of Manchester, attracting visitors from around the world. Successful high profile regeneration has taken place in recent years, and this has been closely linked with crime, fear of crime and the shopping experience. A good shopping environment is dependent on a healthy local economy and a Council with good resources. The IRA Bombing of Manchester city centre in 1996 has greatly influenced the regeneration efforts of the city in subsequent years.WP3 - Man

Supplementary Planning Guidance has emerged as a key document in the regeneration of Manchester. Outlining an environment which is attractive for all users of the city centre, the guidance suggested strengthening the retail and business sectors, providing new investment opportunities and a diverse city centre offer. Manchester began to aspire to be a European-style city, with a theme of safety and reassurance for the users. The case study identified a downplaying of crime in the City Council regeneration documentation, but did find implicit goals for crime and fear of crime reduction.

An increase of residents and housing provision sought to repopulate the city centre. Retailing was thought to be very important to the regeneration. The number, quality and range of shops were increased within the city centre, including the improvement of the Arndale Centre after the 1996 bomb. Retailers began to work with the police in initiatives such as the Retail Crime Operation, a scheme to identify and target the most persistent offenders. Many different organisations are working independently or in partnership to reduce crime and fear of crime in Manchester, including the police, City Council and retail businesses.

Manchester has a large CCTV system which is supplemented by a provision from the NCP, resulting in over 400 cameras across the city centre. Cameras are also often situated inside many stores and buses. This has lead to a reduction in fear of crime. A range of policies and approaches have been implemented, including a rapid response team working against vandalism; street crime wardens and other on-street personnel; ASBOs; Greater Manchester Police initiatives and local newspaper support.

Shoplifting is a problem. To combat this, retailers often position in-store displays with crime in mind, with security staff in stores and provisions such as StoreNet, radio surveillance for retail outlets. The extent to which shoppers themselves are victims of crimes is hard to measure, but crimes such as pick pocketing, ATM crimes, car park crimes and distraction tactics do take place. New fashions for crimes have been identified, for example motorbike ram raids and technology to steal money using ATMs.

Manchester has responded to the connection between retail and crime with a number of approaches, changes and initiatives. With the removal of seats from the Arndale Centre and other areas in the public realm, beggars and undesirable people are given less opportunity to loiter in the city centre. ‘Undesirables’ loitering are associated with petty crime and nuisance.

In contrast to this, however, it could be argued that Manchester should be diverse and no one should be excluded from the city centre. Ways of accommodating diversity are considered in the case study, looking into groups such as the homeless, children, skateboarders, the poor and new residents. Issues for clean streets are investigated, including issues such as chewing gum, litter and toilets.

The case study notes that Manchester City Council are not complacent about the achievements within Manchester’s regeneration initiatives. Manchester needs to attract more jobs and focus on economic growth, with fear of crime still an issue.


A number of steps can be taken to reduce crime in cities, including CCTV, radio links, street lighting, noise management, ASBOs, increased numbers of residents in the centre, and initiatives from the police. Manchester’s priorities throughout the regeneration have been in the form of technological approaches to crime reduction and prevention. Improvements to the city need to be sustainable: regeneration will not be a success if a re-invention is needed in a few years’ time. The commitment of key stakeholders has facilitated the regeneration of Manchester, with the bomb providing a unifying force and increased Mancunian loyalties throughout the city. Difficulties have been found in bringing deprived local communities into the regeneration process to benefit from it. Numerous recommendations for Manchester are listed in the case study.


ToolsHouseBased on a paper entitled Shopping and Crime in Manchester written by Dr Lesley Mackay and edited by Dr Caroline Davey. For a full copy of this paper, click here (Microsoft Word document, 269kb)


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