At testing times like these, we all must strive to work together
HAPPY New Year to everyone from the BID team. First the disappointing news: by all accounts it’s been a tough 2018 for sales – so much so that the chairman of Debenhams has been quoted as saying that last year was the worst that he could remember.
The news about HMV going into administration, whilst not totally unexpected, cast further gloom on high streets across the country.
Looking at the retail chains that shut during 2018 (Toys R Us, Maplin, Poundworld and others) it’s clear that retail is being fundamentally transformed.
Too many shops, often in the wrong locations; a change in the way we shop; rising costs; and a weaker pound are all contributing factors affecting the retail sector.
One in every £5 we spend is now online and that figure is increasing as more and more of us use our smart phones and tablets to buy products more cheaply and more conveniently.
That means fewer and fewer people coming into town to buy things.
We’ve said it many times before: if town centres are to survive then they need to be able offer something more in order to entice people back.
Cheaper and flexible parking arrangements is one such measure.
So is offering a greater variety of attractions and entertainment as well as making better use of what already exists.
So, here’s some good news to start the year off: a new funding pot to finance innovative ideas that can help re-energise the high street.
Last November the Chancellor revealed plans for a high street investment fund worth around £640m, the idea being that local authorities could develop innovative ways of reengaging with their high streets and then bid for a share of the fund to make it happen.
Reading through the prospectus (published at the end of last month) it’s clear that the Government expects the private sector to pay a key part in developing any proposal.
Business Improvement Districts are specifically mentioned as being a key partner and it’s clear from best practice elsewhere that those areas with BIDs stand a better chance of accessing funding.
The funding is not guaranteed of course.
But a successful private public town centre partnership model (which is what a BID essentially is) is in a great position to submit a successful funding application.
In May we will be asking businesses in the town centre to vote in favour of a new five-year term for the BID.
If the vote is in favour then we can continue to work together to improve our town centre.
If the vote is No then the future for our town centre is more uncertain.
Southport Debenhams: some stores may welll be shut – it has not yet been decided which