Researchers in Glasgow are using enormous amounts of data to try and predict how the city centre will look in the future, and their analysis shows that a huge shift in dynamics will see more people choosing to live in town, including families.

“People want to move into the city centre, they want certain types of houses, they have a clear idea of what they want,” said Robert Rogerson, deputy director of Strathclyde University’s Institute of Future Studies.

“If we get that right in the planning element, the shops and the experiences, then people will want to live near the city centre.”

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Adapting the city’s retail offering will be crucial to the future success of the city and those who live in it, said Mr Rogerson. In recent years, household names like BHS and Woolworths have collapsed. And the likes of Debenhams and House of Fraser have seen disappointing sales performances which have led them to seek rent reviews and mull store closures.

The retailers who do survive, will do so in a hitherto unknown environment, one where the exchange of goods for money is not carried out in person.

The rise of ecommerce is arguably a bigger disrupter of the high street than the rise of the supermarket was to traditional shops.

High street bellwether Next saw its retail sales fall 7.9% to £2.1bn in the year to January while online sales grew 9.2% to £1.9bn. If these rates are repeated in the current year online will overtake high street. Glasgow-based retailer Quiz said this would happen in its own business within two years.

“Retailers who are going to succeed are going to create vibrant locations where it’s fun to be, where you can touch the stuff, play with it, meet your friends, have a coffee and talk,” said Richard Bellingham, director of the Institute of Future Studies.

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Mr Rogerson added: “The more diversity there is, the more likely they’ll get people back into the city centre and then people wanting to live closer to the city centre. So retail is a critical part of that future population of the city,” he said.

And he points out that with this desire comes a demand for high quality, sustainable buildings, and a reduction in road pollution.

A spokesman for Glasgow City Council said the authority was currently developing a new residential strategy, following the commission of detailed analysis on supply and demand issues, policy, comparative analysis on other and competitor cities, which was undertaken by Savills.

“We see this as a long-term strategy with a number of incremental steps required,” he said. “We are aware that policy should align with and support the changing approach and environment.”

In 2006, Glasgow City Council, Scottish Enterprise and Glasgow Chambers of Commerce, in recognition of the importance of the city centre to the local economy, developed a five-year city centre action plan, which helping bring £700 million of investment into the city centre. This was used to develop the international financial services district and regenerate Merchant City.

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A second five year strategy runs to 2019 and focuses on nine city centre districts. It acknowledges the growth of online shopping and plans include creating experiences within retail spaces with a focus on extending trading hours, recycling low demand retail space and improving speciality shopping options.

About £115m of City Deals funding is being spent on an avenues project, which will upgrade a number of thoroughfares within the city, including Argyle Street and Sauchiehall Street.

Glasgow is in a unique position in that the Council owns a considerable number of buildings and land within the city centre.

Mr Rogerson said the land and asset ownership was both a strength and a potential weakness when it came to facilitating change.

He said: “They can do something, make decisions on big changes; on the other hand it could be the problem because they will shape the future of the city and I don’t think always, that officials and certainly elected members understand that they have this relatively unique position.”

The Institute, based at Strathclyde University, created the City Observatory as part of Glasgow’s £24m Future City Demonstrator project. The observatory uses data on transport, healthy energy, crime and communities, gathered from commercial, local and national government sources.

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This helps provide an understanding of Glasgow today, and is used to run scenarios of how it may look in the future. Importantly, these predictive scenarios can make an important contribution to how the city will change.

Mr Bellingham said that although the observatory thinks long-term, it deals in shorter-term impact, of five years or so. This is because of the way the economy and technology are changing, and how this affects a city’s demographics.

“We have to think of the changes we’re making in this five years in the context of whether it is a sensible decision in 30 years,” he said.

“There is a huge opportunity,” he added. “Things will happen in the city anyway. If the city does nothing people are going to adopt new technology, individuals and businesses are going to do things. Cities change, however there is an opportunity for Glasgow to take a more pro-active approach.”