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Making Roubaix More Attractive

Construction de l’attractivité de la ville de Roubaix
Natalia Guilluy-Sulikashvili, Godefroy Kizaba et Abdelouahid Assaidi


Le but de notre recherche est de démontrer comment la ville de Roubaix a reconstruit son attractivité. Pour ce faire l’offre et les avantages compétitifs de la ville ont été étudiés à l’aide des modèles du Diamant de Porter et de CERISE REVAIT® considérés comme des outils pour la mesure de l’attractivité. L’approche historique et documentaire ainsi qu’une analyse thématique des entretiens ont permis de mettre en avant l’attractivité à travers l’étude des avantages compétitifs de cette ville. Les résultats montrent que l’attractivité constitue un lien incontestable entre les deux modèles car ils permettent d’étudier l’offre de la ville dans son ensemble et de mesurer son attractivité tout en mettant en évidence ces avantages compétitifs. Le secteur de l’art et de la culture s’avère le plus compétitif de ce territoire, il a contribué au développement du tourisme urbain à Roubaix. Ce secteur a été fortement soutenu par les pouvoirs publics et reste emblématique pour cette ville.

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1Culture and tourism are important forces in the economic development of a territory (Smith, 2003; Gezici, Kerimoglu, 2010; Page, Hall, 2003) and contribute to its attractiveness. This case study focuses on an analysis of Roubaix, a town in the north of France, and aims to explore how specific knowledge, together with cultural and institutional resources can make a town more attractive to tourists. It has gone from being the poorest town in France to being a city rich in culture, attractive to tourists despite the persistent poverty and unemployment problems. As a result, the question of attractiveness becomes crucial for this town and will be studied with help of two models.

2The aim of this article is to show how the town of Roubaix has been trying to rebuild its attractiveness and overcome the decline of its textile industry over the last decades. To do this, Porter’s Diamond Model is invaluable. This method has the advantage of being a practical tool, which, thanks to the Diamond tip inventory and external factors relating to a series of clusters (historical events, politics etc.), is able to analyse concrete cases. In addition, our analysis has been completed by the CERISE REVAIT® model, a diagnostic tool for territorial marketing which was developed by V. Gollain in 2012. The combination of these two tools has resulted in an in-depth analysis of Roubaix and has facilitated the identification of its competitive advantages in order to study its attractiveness. To our knowledge, there is no previous study which has applied these two methods to Roubaix.

3This study is divided into three parts. The relevant literature is reviewed in the first part. The second part is devoted to the methodological aspects of our study, while the third section focuses on the results of this inquiry and discussion of the issues raised, followed by a conclusion.

1. Literature Review

1.1. Attractiveness of a territory

4According to Hatem, 2004, attractiveness is the capacity for a territory to offer actors the conditions that convince them to locate their project in one territory rather than another. The objective is therefore to identify what determines the attractiveness of the territory? The empirical literature provides several answers. Mulkay and Rousseau (2006) talk about market potential, infrastructure, concentration of activities, level of qualification, research and innovation, administrative and regulatory environment, cost of labor and taxation. According to Florida (2003), attractiveness is also related to the quality of life and amenities that the territory provides, among which socio-cultural capital is considered as an important factor to attract an intelligent workforce. Moreover, cities are increasingly considered as “engines of regional development” and attractive hubs in the economic network of a region and are in competition with each other (ATTREG, 2013, Lamarche 2003, Camagni, 2002). Regarding urban tourism, cultural action is associated with attractiveness, economic development, and the physical renovation of a town (Sacco, Blessi, 2007; Roth, Frank, 2000; Richards, 2001; Murphy, Boyle, 2006). To succeed in urban renewal, the image of the town has to be changed and the confidence of its population restored. Similarly, culture and tourism face considerable challenges (Dichter, 1985; Bertoldi et al. 2007; Harvey, 2008).

5According to David Harvey (2008) in order for towns to come across as attractive and be officially labelled as such, they “must develop monopoly revenues, which help build up a symbolic capital and even attract a flow of incoming capital”. This attractiveness is also supported by a set of trends that promote the practice of urban tourism, in particular the interest in culture and heritage, the construction of large entertainment facilities (Kadri, 2007).

6From this perspective, institutions and local communities may equip themselves with more specific means in order to promote their town to investors, business creators and tourists as good place for them to invest, a location for their businesses or their tourist destination (Antunes, 2000; Saez et al., 2017; Mathieson, Wall, 1982; Ahmed, 1991, Johnson, Thomas, 1992). Territories and cities should develop certain characteristics in order to appear attractive (Kuratko, Audresch, 2009; Corte-Real, 2016; Kim, Lee, 2015; Lawson, Band-Bovy, 1977; Dwyer, Kim, 2003, Gumuchian, Pecqueur, 2007) and react to territorial competition.

7As a consequence, the attractiveness can be considered as a prerequisite or an essential dimension of competitiveness. Thus, the study of competitive advantages is therefore indispensable for a territory or a city. We consider that a thorough diagnosis of attractiveness can be made using the two models that we have chosen. In our view, the competitive advantages identified by the classic Porter’s Diamond Model can be supplemented by CERISE REVAIT®, a territorial marketing tool. The combination of these two models can provide a more complete and relevant expertise of the territory in terms of the competitive advantages contributing to its attractiveness.

1.2. Porter’s Diamond Model

8Porter (1990) suggests in The Competitive Advantage of Nations a “Diamond model” which explains competitiveness between nations based on geography and is applied in a business environment. This model has recently been used for several research projects in tourism, (Nordin, 2003; Kim, Wicks, 2010) and provides ideas for experiments in developing tourist destinations throughout the world. Even though this concept stems from industrial economics, it can easily be applied to tourism because it highlights the role of organisational proximity, resulting from spatial proximity, within the dynamics of competitiveness and attractiveness of the territory. It is important to note that this model is essentially concerned with what territories have to offer and it is for this reason that we have chosen to base our research on this model.

9To develop a territory, Porter talks about clusters. A cluster groups together businesses and industries of different or similar sizes, united by common interests (comparable needs and fears), synergy or interdependence, and who willingly develop cooperation in one or several domains. Competitive advantages are seen here as political and managerial constructs or decisions for territorial attractiveness and are more effective within the cluster system. Therefore the creation of territorial attractiveness is linked to the development and competitiveness of the cluster under the influence of the following factors.

10The determining factors of competitiveness, differentiation and the creation of networks may be defined as follows:

  • Factors and conditions: These can be divided into two larger categories: basic factors, such as natural resources, and complex factors including infrastructure, highly qualified staff, and research-based universities.

  • Domestic demand for goods or services: this demand constitutes a decisive factor for a competitive advantage at the national level. A competitive advantage is obtained when local businesses adapt more quickly to this domestic requirement than their foreign competitors, in that national needs are easier to grasp and less expensive to satisfy.

  • Related and support industries: The presence of related competitive industries on the international level will have several positive effects which enable the dissemination of information about new technology and new opportunities.

  • Firms’ strategies, structures and rivalries: the world is dominated by those working in dynamic conditions. Domestic competition encourages companies to work to increase productivity and to innovate.

  • A combination of factors, to which Porter adds luck and the State, which determine the chances of a given company in a specific country and a given industry building a competitive advantage in comparison with competing companies in other countries.

11The main reason for using this model is to obtain an overview of how all the tourist activities in a given territory are coordinated. The point here is to act as if good management practices could pass from the company to the territory to make it attractive. The competitive advantages of companies are turned into territorial competitive advantages and underline its attractiveness.

1.3. The CERISE REVAIT® Model

12The CERISE REVAIT® model is an analysis tool which may be used to assist the economic development of a territory, town or region (Gollain, 2009). From this perspective, he describes it as an “approach which aims to develop, on the basis of knowledge of the environment (geographic, demographic, cultural, economic, social, political), what a territory has to offer with the aim of increasing the attractiveness and hospitality of the town.” This method has already been applied to Paris and Lyon. The slogan “Only Lyon” was created following a diagnosis made using this method, but Roubaix has not previously been studied with the help of CERISE REVAIT®.

13This is a French method and in the abbreviation, each letter stands for a domain in French. If we translate the abbreviation into English, CERISE REVAIT® becomes HBNISP RSVSOT®.

14This method uses the techniques of a classic survey and studies several markets or aspects: H-human capital, B-businesses, N-networks, I-infrastructure, S-structured corporate actions, P-professional sporting events, R-research/innovation, S-services, V-values, territorial identity, S-secondary businesses, O-outside image, T- new technologies, ®-natural, physical resources. It aims to improve the competitiveness of a territory for different target audiences: investors, future shoppers, chambers of commerce, public facilities, residents, consumers, tourists and politicians.

15Through these concepts, we see that this method is highly compatible with Porter’s Diamond Model because it encourages the showcasing of competitive advantages.

16The CERISE REVAIT® model is an approach used by towns and other territories in order to improve the attractiveness of their territorial offer, to reinforce their competitive position and to enhance their competitiveness. However, if being attractive and competitive enough to create attractions and facilities in line with what the public desires turns out to be insufficient, it is necessary to manage and promote the town using an effective business development plan. It should be indicated that territorial marketing alone cannot fix the problems a region faces; it must rely on a global development plan based on Porter’s suggestions (1990).

1.4. Conceptual framework

17Based on the literature review, we created a conceptual framework that puts attractiveness at the heart of the study and helps to highlight the city’s competitive advantages using the two models mentioned above. Four chosen variables are determined by the Porter’s model, so four sets of variables are examined: environmental factors and specific conditions, the influence of competition on the business strategies in the territory, domestic demand and businesses, related and support industries. The corresponding CERISE REVAIT® elements have been selected so as to take a closer look at each of the variables determined by Porter.

18Following these principles, attention is drawn to the territory’s competitive advantages through Porter’s Diamond Model and its overall territorial assets through CERISE REVAIT®. Such an approach can provide knowledge about the attractiveness of the territory and its competitive advantages. In other words, the attractiveness of Roubaix can be measured through the combination of these two models.

2. Research Methodology

2.1. Case study using a qualitative exploratory approach

19This project has been undertaken as a classic case study using traditional methodology. According to Yin (2003) “the distinctive need for case studies arises out of the desire to understand complex social phenomena” because “the case study method allows investigators to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real-life events,” such as showcasing a territory. In fact, case studies represent the preferred strategy when “how” or “why” questions are being asked, when the investigator has little control over events, and when the focus is on a contemporary phenomenon within some real-life context.

20Roubaix was selected as we wished to find a representative example of this type of territory. Although our study focuses on a single town, it contributes to more general knowledge about how to showcase a territory. Yin (2003) states that “the single case study can represent a significant contribution to knowledge and theory-building. Such a study can even help to refocus future investigations in an entire field.”

21The second methodological decision concerned the type of research. The aim of this study was to investigate in depth Roubaix and its competitive territorial advantages for tourism according to the Porter Diamond model as well as the overall territorial assets based on the CERISE REVAIT® approach. A historical and documentary study of the territory, despite its limitations, made it possible to investigate the development of the town of Roubaix. The period of study is from 2000 to 2020.

22The historical and documentary approach together with a thematic analysis of interviews revealed several aspects of the territory and thus showcases the authorities’ innovative approach to urban renewal and improving the town’s image. Consequently, the territory may be the object of study from two points of view: an analysis of all the town has to offer and its competitive advantage.

23The data collection, historical study, documentary data collection, as well as observations, were conducted from September 2018 to October 2020. To carry out data collection, face to face interviews were conducted with Loïc Trinel (LT), head of the Roubaix tourist office, Julie Bosquet (JB), chief receptionist at the Roubaix tourist office, and Nicolas Delaporte (ND), former Regional Manager of France-Nord for Air France KLM, and who is currently working on territorial attractiveness issues. These interviews lasted six hours in total.

24The interview guide was designed beforehand. It was composed of 20 questions. Each of the five groups of questions was based on one factor of the Porter Model and the various components of CERISE REVAIT®.

25We also relied on the article of M. David, former Director of Urban renewal, education and culture of Roubaix and interviews of Alexandre Garcin (AG), Deputy Mayor for digital transformation and public service modernization and Guillaume Delbart, Mayor of Roubaix, available on official sites of the city.

26Several businesses were visited and documentary data was also collected. Data collection involved consulting regional archives, business documents and making direct observations. Some information concerning the strategic and international development of the town of Roubaix was available on the internet and in specialized journals. All statements are based on interviews as well as on observation and documentary research.

27Four sets of data have been examined. The first is concerned with environmental factors or the development of the territory. The second concerns the competition and its influence on business strategies. The third looks at domestic demand and its influence on businesses. The fourth makes a study of secondary industries.

2.2. Case description

28The town of Roubaix combines all the problems of old industrial towns: the collapse of traditional industries, the need for regeneration, urban restructuring and unemployment. Roubaix is entirely typical of such towns and may serve as a test case. A lot of research has already explored various issues related to the regeneration of this city (Guinand, 2009 ; Vulbeau, 2018 ; Miot, 2012 ; Marchand, 2017 ; Barbier, 2019) and others.

29From the 1950s onward, many of the factories in the city started to fail as a result of the Europe-wide crisis in the textile industry. It was hit full force in the 1970s by an economic crisis: high unemployment, numerous redundancies etc. More and more companies went bankrupt, even the most solid and reputable among them. The regeneration of the textile industry using mail order catalogues was successful, but it was not sufficient to stop the movement towards an inevitable decline. As time went on, the town lost most of its industries and its urban fabric fell apart. The numerous industrial wastelands where factories used to be became genuine eyesores. A sad picture was created of an industrial backwater and this contributed to the deterioration of the town’s image, which is the ultimate factor of decline. It is not surprising that in these conditions Roubaix developed a worryingly high concentration of negative social indicators. In addition, it faced problems with a large community of immigrants and their descendants (around 50% of the population) whom manufacturers had used when they needed a large workforce, but who later proved particularly vulnerable to unemployment. Poverty and discrimination against immigrants, notably regarding employment, made it hard for them to fit in. However, more recently, the municipality has been working hard to fight against the difficulties linked to the industrial decline of the 1970s-1980s. Today, noticeable things have changed for the better in Roubaix. Many university and college antennae have been built in the town of Roubaix, bringing thousands of students (EDHEC Business School, ENSAIT School of Engineering for the Textile Industry, ESAAT School of Applied Arts and Textile Design, the Modern Languages and Communication departments of the Université de Lille). The development of new digital industries is important, so are creative and cultural factors, such as an innovative cultural policy leading to a vibrant cultural life (La Piscine Museum, the André-Diligent Art and Industry Museum, the Condition Publique creative laboratory, the Colisée theatre, the National Archives of the World of Work [Archives Nationales du Monde du Travail], Street Art etc).

30Today, Roubaix has 45 historical attractions1, it is recognised for its artistic and historical sites, and it has the Barbieux Park which was designed as a prestigious promenade for Roubaix’s wealthy elite, but also as a recreational area for all. It welcomes tourists. The “Town of Art and History” team within the Department of Culture and the Tourism Office in Roubaix offer numerous packages to enable visitors to discover the wealth of its history through visits, exhibitions, events and workshops. A solid tourist infrastructure has been developed to provide everything the tourists need. 2019 was a great year for sport with the reopening of the Lesaffre swimming pool at the beginning of the year, the mythical Paris-Roubaix cycling race on April 14, the departure of the final stage of the Grand Prix for the Hauts-de-France region, the 4 days of Dunkirk cycling race starting on May 19th and many other important sporting events. Roubaix has also demonstrated its great ability to innovate (Buy a house to renovate for 1 Euro, Zero waste, urban farming, digital communications projects)2. It is rich with several development projects and has fostered a real identity which is felt by its inhabitants, some of whom are strongly attached to the place. However, some socio-economic paradoxes persist today: 45% of the population lives on less than 977€ per month, and 39.83% of the population did not vote in the last elections3. With 28% of the population declared as unemployed, a major portion of the people of Roubaix are simply spectators of the changes in their town.  

3. Results and discussion

3.1. Synopsis of interview results

31Following the analytical framework presented above, four sets of variables were examined. The information was processed via a method of thematic analysis. According to Chiglione and Matalon (1978), it consists in “isolating the themes in a text in order to, on the one hand, reduce them to usable proposals, on the other to enable comparison with other texts processed in the same manner.” The primary themes make it possible to explain the contents of the segment of text analysed. With regards to the secondary themes, they enable us to identify specific aspects of the main themes (Huberman, 1991).

32The main elements of this type of analysis are as follows:

  • Identifying significant, tangible or permanent parameters by examining historical facts and economic factors

  • Understanding the municipal and regional authorities’ underlying logic, policies and strategic actions

  • Understanding personal judgements, experiences and organizational constraints

  • Identifying developing trends in terms of organization and business approaches

  • Identifying the external factors which determine both strategic moments and the decision to invest in activities linked to innovation

  • Understanding the aspirations and motivations of economic actors and also municipal and regional authorities

33These elements are further explained in the following table.

Table 1: Most notable findings from the interviews

Main points



Environmental factors and specific conditions

S-structured corporate actions
P-professional/sport events
O-outside image
T-territorial values and identity
®-natural/physical resources, iconic locations
H-human capital

very difficult economic situation ; unemployment amongst the local population ; the industrial past, textiles ; entrepreneurship, mutual aid, resourcefulness of the population, willingness of the State and public authorities to develop the territory, artistic talent, cultural and sporting events, rich heritage, large and inexpensive spaces

The influence of competition on the business strategies in the territory

B-businesses/leading actors

the presence of businesses in the same field and in the same territory encourages innovation, research and development

Domestic demand and businesses

N-networks/linking points
I-infrastructure/real estate

Public demand becomes more and more sophisticated ; atypical places in the city attract more people

Related and support industries

S-secondary industries

Innovative start-ups, textiles, communication, SME, job creators

34Using these highlights, attention is drawn to the territory’s attractiveness in relation with its competitive advantages. Such an approach provides knowledge on economic, social and geographic as well as ideological components (history, values) that are specific to Roubaix, on strategies and their implementation contributing to its attractiveness. This analysis sheds light on different factors − basic or complex – and on how they impact the city of Roubaix, as well as its competitors, what the public wants, and any secondary industries developed in the area.

35These results will be discussed in the following sections.

3.2. Environmental Factors and the Specific Conditions in Roubaix

36In what Porter labels “chance that can impact a territory,” we can explore the city’s particular economic situation. Roubaix went through a lasting crisis starting in the 1950s. The dominant textile industry did not invest in the most modern technology and preferred to rely on the low cost of the work force, principally composed of immigrants. The number of jobs lost over the past 40 years or so is even larger than the tragic losses encountered by the steel industry …but this slow decline has affected the population’s way of thinking.

37Let’s see how LT described this situation:

The town went through a very difficult economic crisis and the inhabitants suffered from this. Mutual aid and resourcefulness helped create an attitude of resilience. Roubaix had all the right ingredients to survive as a town. The artists came in the 1980s. Thanks to a few willing helpers, the association “Art Action” was created. Then, the first places like the RITA workshop saw the light of day. As Roubaix was the poorest city in France, it had very low rent for both professional premises and housing, which incited artists to come and live here. The opening of La Piscine Museum in 2001 accelerated this trend and Roubaix became a city where art and artists were able to develop. The town council built on this by creating the “Art Nights,” which take place twice a year. There are now seven art centres and large collective spaces which incite even Parisians to come and relocate here.

S − Structured Corporate Actions

38This section is concerned with resources that are built into the framework of a public/private partnership, understanding a particular territory’s development strategy, and analysing the way that territory is governed (Hatem, 2007; Fayos-Solà et al, 2014).

39According to Porter, the competitiveness of a town does not depend on its resources but also on how effectively it uses them (Porter, 2003). Industries develop according to the needs and desires of the people in any town or country. In other words, the demand directly contributes to the development of industries. In addition, the presence of a potential domestic demand is essential for innovation and development. In fact, that is what has been happening in Roubaix - local demand contributes to the development of industries and entrepreneurship.

40The national and local authorities have strongly encouraged the development of Roubaix. On the regional level, the Regional Council has defined three major objectives: balanced and equal investment in development for all parts of the region, encouraging the attractiveness of the region for inhabitants and visitors, and finally opening access to cultural programmes.

41In addition to helping and supporting artistic activities, highlighting the town’s heritage and even developing decentralized cooperation, the Regional Council’s plan has led to the establishment of large projects brought about by local initiative (Grelet, Vivant, 2014; Douglas, 2005).

42ND’s remarks underline the existence of this political commitment:

The former mayor, René Vandierendonck, did a lot for the town, and the current mayor, Guillaume Delbar, who is a politician as well as being the director of a company, has brought a different – more entrepreneurial – vision to the territory.

43GD argues:

We have repositioned Roubaix as an innovative city, daring, pioneering by its projects and the dynamism of its inhabitants: Zero Waste, Houses at 1 €, Blanchemaille, Urban Cultures ...We have also given a new dimension to several flagships of the city: the Barbieux Park, the Piscine Museum, the Condition Publique, but also the Manufacture des Flandres, which bears witness to part of the rich history of our city4.

44To achieve such dynamism, the municipality devotes part of its budget to it, but also receives grants from the State, the metropolis and others. According to official sources, the Roubiax’s budget 2020 is 195.6 million euros divided between operating expenditures (140.6 M EUR) and investment (55.2 M EUR)5. The dynamic of revenue (4.79 M EUR), over expenditure (+3.65 M EUR) is mainly due to the increase in State grants (urban solidarity grant and political endowment of the town). For the year 2020, the allocations represent 98 M EUR, an increase of 3.6% compared to 2019. The total amount of the allocations include the global operating allocation (15.5 M EUR), the DSU (urban solidarity grant) (47.5 M EUR), the political endowment of the town (4.5 M EUR), the MEL endowment (European Metropolis of Lille) (23.6 M EUR) and other endowments (7.6 M EUR). Each of these criteria shows that Roubaix as a town was the second largest DSU (urban solidarity grant) beneficiary in 20196.

P- Professional and Sporting Events

45This variable includes all the professional events organized by the territory (conferences, fairs, markets, seminars, visits to sites, festivals etc.) as well as all the services and ancillary facilities for these events (hotel accommodation, reception, signs, information). One of the most important events is the Paris-Roubaix race, one of the oldest bicycle races in the world. It started in 1896 and attracted 2 million visitors in 2017. Another key event was created by Xavier de Richemont, a video-painter who made a “video painting” about the history of Roubaix as part of URBA IXO7.

46The “I love Roubaix” Street Art Map is published annually in conjunction with #XU and highlights different murals and frescoes etc. across the town8. #XU was launched in 2015 to celebrate urban culture with mural paintings in the once-abandoned industrial areas. The town also has “Green Fashion Days” to be at the forefront of ethical fashion. The town council also organizes the biannual “Art Nights,” significant events in the town. LT and JB state:

This artistic wave began naturally. The artists came and opened their workshops. Art Point M arrived in Roubaix over 20 years ago. The opening of La Piscine Museum a little later stems from political and municipal commitment, as do the festivals #XU and Art Night. And in addition to that, we noticed that one small event would associate with other small events and this often had a big impact on a big event.

47GD states:

After the success of the show we will create a city lights tour by gradually equipping remarkable buildings of the city (the La Piscine museum, the train station, Banque de France, the space of Gobelins / Notre Dame). These artistic lightings or projections will ultimately make it possible to create real journeys, add heritage tours and nocturnes, and liven up Roubaix.9.

O- Outside Image

48To be effective, this territorial image should be “credible, simple, attractive and distinctive,” because it constitutes a selection criterion for the choice of location for the person concerned (Merunka, Ouattara, 2007). Developing a positive destination image also encourages tourists to return frequently (Kim, Lee, 2015) and contributes to understanding the tourists’ post-purchase behaviour (Bigné et al., 2001). In the case of Roubaix, obtaining the label “Town of Art and History” changed its outside image a lot.

49Roubaix town council applied to the Ministry of Culture in 1998 in order to obtain the label “Town of Art and History,” which it gained in 2001. This was done in order to transform the negative image of the town into a positive image and also to create a new momentum. The assets of the town were presented by the local authorities as a cultural and artistic breeding ground as well as highlighting a history strongly marked by the period of the textile industry. These interlocking elements, all connected to the town’s heritage, have allowed the town to develop a positive image and seize the opportunity to relaunch the sense of pride for its inhabitants in belonging to Roubaix (Guinand, 2009).

50LT and JB confirm the importance of the label:

A great plan is essential to creating projects that work. The container is as important as its contents. Culture has been a catalyst for the economic dynamism of the town and it has changed the town’s image. La Manufacture Museum, the Villa Cavrois, the arrival of artists and art galleries. The entrepreneurial side of the town often moves alongside the cultural side which contributes to its attractiveness. Culture gives a dynamic image to the town and consequently start-ups come to set up here.

T − Territorial values and identity

51These are the characteristic features shared by an entire territory (expertise, commitment, territorial identity). Territorial values and identity stem from the commitments and values of the men and women who live there. The relationship that individuals have with their territory is a strong element in this commitment. Therefore, it is also related to the territory’s way of presenting itself. Roubaix is committed to several values. First of all, work. This town has always been defined by work. Work used to be the purpose in life for the population as either boss or worker. Life was organized around the factories and the factories and neighbourhoods organized the social life, party life, community life, trade union life and even political life of the population. We can thus better assess the trauma that losing this work represented. The political elite of the town felt that the town had a duty to organize a large and systematic effort to enhance the collective memory (David, 2003), as part of its strategy to make the most of its heritage.

52According to ND:

53Roubaix has also traditionally been well-known for its entrepreneurial spirit:

The entrepreneurial spirit is strong in Roubaix. Not only because there have been famous industrial families from this territory; but also on account of all the start-ups that have been established here, the people who have come here etc. Entrepreneurship is a good characteristic of this territory. There is also, historically, the relationship that company bosses had with their workers which had a paternalistic outlook that contributed a lot to entrepreneurship and goodwill.

54According to JB:

Speaking of values, first of all, there is multiculturalism because of all of the different nationalities who live in Roubaix. The important elements to underline are work and a feeling of belonging to the town and to its heritage.

55LT adds in turn:

Sport is an important value, above all for the youth, in that the town’s population is very young. Work and business are equally strong values for the people of Roubaix.

® Natural and physical resources, iconic locations

56These are resources “given by nature” and which may give a unique competitive advantage to a territory. This contributes to the destination image and provides visitors with chances to capture what was in the past and interpret it in the light of the current situation.

57Roubaix opted for a policy of redevelopment with special emphasis on the fields of heritage and culture. Several former factories were transformed into cultural spaces: the Motte-Bossut factory houses the centre for the “Archives of the World of Work.” The Roussel factory welcomes ballet dancers from all over the region for rehearsals and the old wool processing factory (Condition Publique) is a cultural and artistic centre (Guinand, 2009).

58LT confirms the importance of heritage in creating Roubaix’s competitive advantage:

There are some very beautiful buildings. La Piscine Museum contributes a lot to the image of the town. We are lucky to have this rich, industrial heritage which has been rehabilitated and transformed into places one can visit. There are also art deco buildings. These heritage sites all give us large, available spaces to develop projects.

59ND highlights that the image of the town is strengthened by the Piscine Museum:

The Piscine Museum in Roubaix is widely known. The visitors who arrive in the context of my work all wish to visit the Main Square in Lille, Lille’s Old Town and, after that, La Piscine Museum in Roubaix, because they’ve heard it talked about. It is a unique place. Even the word association is very strong: La Piscine means The Pool in French.

H - Human Capital

60Human capital as an essential factor in economic growth, education and training are studied in this section. It also includes the question of individual salaries and financial rewards (Mincer, Polachek, 1974).

61The presence of colleges and universities shows both state-funding and private investment in producing qualified human capital. But this is not all, because the State also encourages the development of human capital in the Arts. In contrast, a notable discrepancy persists between the local population and the students and young professionals who work in the town.

62This is how ND describes this situation:

The rate of unemployment is very high in Roubaix (more than 31% in 201710). In my opinion, there is a huge gap between what the town does today in terms of economic activity and the people who have remained on the sidelines since the closure of the textile factories. Those who live here and those who work here do not have the same skills. Let’s take the example of the EDHEC students who study in Roubaix but live in the centre of Lille. There could be a place for student life in Roubaix but I don’t get the impression that this exists. There have been projects that were not followed through. We get the impression that no one took responsibility for integrating the students and creating a way for them to live alongside the local population when student housing is such a serious problem in Lille. The students are isolated. The different groups in the population do not interact with one another and thus new methods must be developed to stimulate this interaction.

63In the same vein, LT confirms:

The students do not stay in Roubaix. They do not find the town attractive. Young workers leave to go abroad and few return later. There is still this tax-free zone which helps businesses move here, but there is a setback once the launch phase has ended and the businesses leave. They go to Lille or other big cities.

3.3. The influence of competition on business strategies in the territory

B − Businesses and leading actors

64Businesses and emblematic economic actors from a territory or a selected sector are studied inside this variable.

65This variable can be combined with Porter’s Diamond Model because it concerns the development of a cluster of large Northern French businesses such as Auchan, Flunch, Boulanger, Decathlon, Leroy Merlin, Les 3 Suisses and La Redoute, which are driven by direct competition to work on increasing productivity and innovation.

66Created in Roubaix 180 years ago, La Redoute (textile sales) suffered a lot because of competition from the internet, but the mail order business has now been digitized. The site has been transformed into a start-up incubator specializing in e-commerce. The building baptized “Blanchemaille” now houses specialists in distance selling who sell organic cosmetic products, as well as a manufacturer of 3D printers. Furthermore, to distinguish itself from the competition, La Redoute have relaunched their Made in Roubaix” textiles, manufactured in a Roubaix workshop11.

67JB’s argument strengthens this hypothesis:

The strong business presence pushes us to do innovative things and this gets people talking about our city. From an economic point of view, this creates jobs. Don’t forget that OVH was born in Roubaix. Crédit Agricole (bank) has created quite a number of jobs here since its establishment.

68LT adds:

Apart from very large businesses, little organizations and SMEs innovate a lot. The town is brimming over with all these little companies which create jobs and are important in terms of our territory’s attractiveness. They are in the arts, textile innovation, and the digital domain.

R − Research, Development and Innovation

69There are numerous examples of research and development in Roubaix. We can cite the Centre for Research and Development in Innovative Textiles (CETI in French). New technology is also important because it makes a town smart and up-to-date, as well as making concrete contributions to the town’s development (Garau, 2014). The town council in Roubaix launched a procedure, called “Open Data”, for making the territory’s public data available to all citizens and actors in the territory. The portal was motivated by a desire for transparency, the modernization of public life, and the attractiveness and development of the territory. Roubaix was the first town in the North to provide open access to its data in 201612. Other examples amply illustrate the town’s innovative approach. The “Bobine” is a tourist office inaugurated in 2017 where visitors can go online and recharge their batteries or participate in a zero waste and creativity workshop. Visitors can borrow free scooters, take a break and drink a coffee on the sofa etc. Roubaix was the fourth town in France to sign the Green Digital Charter in 2015. Since 2017, the town has been regularly reserving new sites for individual and community allotments in order to cater for leisure activities and healthy eating, as well as encouraging social contact and increasing purchasing power for its inhabitants. More than eight hectares have been set aside for this project, there are around 30 sites and 350 family allotments in the town 13.

70LT explains this phenomenon:

The town is often faster than Lille and its surrounding area in developing digital projects. Project Live – the connection of three towns [Roubaix, Marcq-en-Baroeul, Tourcoing] – is a good illustration of this policy. The man behind this, Alexandre Garcin, is a great, dynamic person, who moves quickly. We have developed several applications for tourists, notably “Points in the City”. We have digitalized a map and we can create routes [around the tourist sites].

71AG confirms that:

  • 14 Alexandre Garcin, deputy mayor in charge of sustainable development, digital innovation and the « i (...)

The town’s aim is to be as dynamic as possible in our experiments in the territory, which will enable us, working with all those concerned, to build and play our part in an intelligent, efficient, economically sustainable and people-friendly town”14

3.4. Domestic demand and businesses

N − Networks and linking points

72Relationship networks demonstrate the influence that building links can have on individual behaviour, including on stress and on the dynamics created by the actions of people from a particular territory. Various networks for developing entrepreneurship are present in Roubaix. Positive Planet France is one organization that fights against unemployment in priority neighbourhoods and helps people who are having difficulty finding a job to create their own businesses. Plateforme Initiative France, based in Roubaix, provides expert advice and follow-up for business creators. In addition, La Fabrique à Entreprendre is a co-working space and a key place for business creation.

73GD confirms this statement:

We will expand our 2 sites of excellence: Blanchemaille to more than 13 000 m² by 2022 to accommodate 100 companies for more than 1000 jobs, as well as Plaine Image to accommodate 3000 jobs for 200 companies in 202115.

74From our perspective, this variable can be linked to the domestic demand category in Porter’s Diamond Model because the requirements of the population from within one economic area encourage businesses to constantly improve their competitiveness. Another very important factor in this territory is the fact that the economic difficulties frequently incite the inhabitants to create their own jobs.

I-Infrastructure/Real Estate

75This refers to the type, quality and cost of resources available for those infrastructure creators who participate in the competition between territories. Infrastructure is also one of seven cognitive attributes of a destination’s image which contribute to its attractiveness (Byon, Zhang, 2010). Some infrastructure and plans for new medium term projects already exist (large scientific facilities, housing, hotels, cultural institutions).

76This category also includes the description of real estate offers and available land destined for economic activities (AZ = activity zones, buildings for logistics, land available for development, environmentally friendly sites: eco-hubs, eco-parks, buildings with positive energy…).

77JB’s statement confirms this fact:

The installation of new housing is linked to the establishment of businesses and infrastructure. For example, the Velodrome and the presence of businesses have boosted the increase in bed and breakfast establishments and Airbnbs.

78LT follows up on this thought:

We have more well-equipped co-working spaces compared to Lille, such as La Maison d’Alfred and Be Square. When co-working spaces were set-up in Roubaix, it was new. The tourist office in Roubaix is soon going to move to a 1000m2 building where there will be a reception area, a real restaurant, a concept store and a co-working space. All of this in a 1000m2 tourist office.

79JB states:

But I think this is also a fashion because people are more and more looking for things that are a little bit novel. They are more interested by things that are out of the ordinary and in places that are a little unusual. Public demand is becoming more and more sophisticated. Places like Condition Publique and other atypical places in the town attract a lot of people.

S- Services

80These are all the profit-making services offered as support for economic activities. They comprise service activities which add to the dynamism of the production sector as well as service offers adapted to the needs of recently created or established businesses. This variable can be studied in conjunction with Porter’s factors because these competitive advantages are difficult to reproduce elsewhere.

81LT mentions the multiple services that help project leaders in the creation of their businesses: The town is using an old post office building which is called Avant Poste to create a contact point between project leaders and the relevant support services.

82JB showcases the services linked to the stores at the Usine (Factory) Shopping Centre:

The stores at the Usine Outlet Mall are very important for the territory. The concept of a centre for factory shops started in Roubaix and a lot of people come here for this reason. The McArthur Glen Arcade has welcomed 2,000,000 visitors. 1,200,000 visitors per year go to the Usine Outlet Mall; The Usine works hard at keeping its customers: the carparks are centrally located, there are restaurants. We notice that people travel for up to an hour and a half to come here and 60% of those who come to the Usine Outlet Mall also visit McArthur Glen. They come for the whole day.

83JB follows up on this reasoning:

If you look at the Usine Outlet Mall, this building has a historical heritage that has been preserved. The building had to be restored. The word “culture” comes up in close relation with building up attractiveness. Sales are high and association ReStore takes products that are still in good condition to a waste recycling centre to put them back into use. This project has existed for two or three years. It works pretty well and it’s the opposite of sales. Restore participates in the alternative side of the town and in the town’s Zero Waste Project. You imagine that the objects come from the rubbish collection, so they are the last survivors.

3.5. Related and support industries

S- Secondary businesses, economic fabric, sectors of excellence


84Micro-enterprises (small and medium) led by entrepreneurs are especially emblematic of the territory or the sector we are studying, as they have networks for outsourcing and are often the principal sectors or centres of excellence within a territory, etc.

85The Union site provides one good example. This urban project aims to stimulate a new economic dynamic by locating the head offices of several regional groups of businesses all on one site and creating a quality urban environment with a five-hectare urban park and the restoration of industrial heritage buildings. The operational territory of the Union includes the Plaine Image project, a hub of creative industries, and this contributes to the attractiveness of an urban free zone that was created by the Regional Council (Grelet, Vivant, 2014).

86LT’s words fully prove this:

Clearly there is a political will to develop the Union Project with the presence of CETI (European Centre for Innovative Textiles), Plaine Image, etc. The towns of Roubaix, Tourcoing and Wattrelos have really fought for this project to be situated within their territory, and so Lille and the authorities for the whole metropolitan area regularly inject funds into this project.

87All the same, ND regrets that the textile industry has not been sufficiently exploited in this territory which has such a rich industrial past:

Manufacturing industries were abandoned and, to a great extent, Roubaix switched to the tertiary sector. In the tertiary sector, we see a well-designed digital strategy. This strategy has contributed greatly to the attractiveness and the establishment of start-ups. An ecosystem has been created in Roubaix and the surrounding area so that start-ups can meet and exchange. This provides even more visible, coherent and powerful communication about the territory.

88ND continues on the same idea:

There are a lot of creators but not a lot of textile manufacturers in Roubaix today. There was a campaign to attract start-ups and incubators. The cloud-computing company OVH is here now. The efforts made have been laudable, but the general population have fallen behind. The local people do not participate. There is no sign of a strategy for solving this problem.


89In this article we have studied four variables determined by Porter’s Diamond and CERISE REVAIT® model to measure Roubaix’s attractiveness through competitive advantages.

90The first variable contains the factors and condition of the city and studies the importance of corporate action encouraging cultural action and the organisation of events contributing to urban tourism development.

91The results of this study demonstrate that structured corporate actions based on public/private partnerships have been successfully undertaken in the city and have led to its repositioning and attractiveness. The main competitive advantage of Roubaix relates to culture and appears among the first variable factors and conditions. Indeed, thanks to the strength of the town’s natural resources, its architectural heritage and human capital encouraged by the State, the town has managed to overcome its difficult economic situation by relying on cultural and urban tourism development. In fact, The State has strongly encouraged the development of Roubaix, by providing official assistance for three major aims: balanced and equal investment in development for all parts of the region, encouraging the attractiveness of the region for inhabitants and visitors, and finally opening access to cultural programmes.

92Professional and sporting events are both organised and encouraged by the local authorities, including conferences, seminars, fairs, markets, festivals, etc., all of which improve its attractivity as urban tourism destination and its reputation. Strongly supported by the authorities, investment in cultural heritage (La Piscine Museum, la Manufacture Museum, the Villa Cavrois, etc.) and culture has boosted the image of the town and contributed to development of urban tourism in Roubaix.

93Roubaix has strong territorial values and an identity stemming from the commitments and values of the people who live there. Roubaix is historically a town with a single industry (textiles) which grew quickly during the 19th century, and yet, the entrepreneurial spirit is still strong today. Indeed, many start-ups have been established here. The town is also attached to its heritage and its multiculturalism because of the different nationalities who live there.

94The presence of human capital is today constantly cited as a fundamental asset available to territories (Camagni, 2009; Oiry-Varacca, 2012) so that they can compete in the international arena by both strengthening local activities and attracting those from elsewhere. Indeed, qualified human capital plays an important role in the development of a country or a town. The case of Roubaix is very revealing since it has taken the initiative in inviting prestigious business school (EDHEC Business School), university campuses and engineering schools (ENSAIT) to come to the town. There are also many artists living in Roubaix. Nevertheless, the unemployment rate is very high and the territory is not yet attractive enough to keep knowledge workers for a long time.

95The second variable, the influence of competition on business strategies in the territory examines attractiveness through business leaders, research and innovation.

96There are many retailers and businesses in Roubaix, such as Auchan, Flunch, Leroy Merlin, La Redoute (created 180 years ago), an incubator of innovative start-ups and the development of new technologies of information and communication. The economic role of territorial capital is to enhance the efficiency and productivity of local activities. Our results showed numerous cases of research, development and innovation, like for example the CETI (European Centre for Innovative Textiles) currently present in Roubaix.

97The third variable studies the attractiveness of domestic demand and businesses, networks, linking points, infrastructure, services.

98This increasing number of local businesses and networks for developing entrepreneurship (Positive Planet, Fabrique à entreprendre) represents an attempt to reduce unemployment and revive domestic demand in order to improve the competitiveness of the town and at the same time energize the service sector. An effort has been made in infrastructure as well, with the construction of hotels and housing. Despite the presence of many businesses, the manufacturing industries, Roubaix’s original specialization, have been abandoned and the town has largely switched to the tertiary sector which means that the population originally involved in textile production remains unemployed.

99Finally, the fourth one provides knowledge about the attractiveness of related and secondary industries.

100The results equally demonstrate that despite several business efforts and the creation of ecosystems for start-ups, unemployment problems and poverty continue to cause problems in this town. Roubaix is a two-speed territory, as if these efforts were made for people on the outside, while the local population does not benefit from them. From what has been stated, there is still no coherent strategic plan to reduce unemployment and keep businesses in the territory.

101The combination of two models has made it possible to obtain a global vision of what the town could offer and to highlight its competitive advantages through attractiveness. These advantages can be considered as the ability of a given tourist destination to use its resources, adding to their value over time (Ritchie, 2004).

102Attractiveness appears to be an indisputable link between these two models, because CERISE REVAIT® allows us to study the town and its assets as a whole whereas Porter’s Diamond Model enables us to bring to light its competitive advantages. Such an approach makes it possible to identify promising sectors that may be developed on the initiative of both local and outside organizations and companies, with possible support from the local authorities.

103The results have practical implications for political leaders, entrepreneurs, tourism businesses and institutions, regional authorities and official policy makers. First, they improve everyone’s knowledge of Roubaix’s attractiveness and competitive advantages. The analysis provided by a combination of the two models helps local and regional authorities to improve their management of the town’s attractions.

104Secondly, they can be used for further marketing, or strategic and competitive surveys about this territory. They can also constitute the basis for new programmes or policies specially designed to increase the attractiveness of Roubaix.

105It is important to conclude with a cautionary remark that a case study approach can sometimes lead to generalizing the issue. Within the context of this research, only one town has been studied. It would therefore be interesting for future projects to make a comparative study of different territories of the same size.

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3, consulté le 20 septembre 2019.



6 L'efficacité des politiques publiques mises en oeuvre à Roubaix / Rapports récents / Rapports de l'IGA / Publications - Ministère de l'Intérieur (

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Natalia Guilluy-Sulikashvili, Godefroy Kizaba et Abdelouahid Assaidi, « Making Roubaix More Attractive », Territoire en mouvement Revue de géographie et aménagement [En ligne], 46 | 2020, mis en ligne le 15 décembre 2020, consulté le 20 janvier 2021. URL : ; DOI :

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Natalia Guilluy-Sulikashvili

Vice Doyen de la Faculté des Lettres et Sciences Humaines à l’Université Catholique de Lille, France
mail :

Godefroy Kizaba

Maître de Conférences à UPHF (Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France), Valenciennes, France
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Abdelouahid Assaidi

Associate Professor à Laurentian University, Ontario, Canada
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