Tag Archives: town centres

Open for business: The Great British High Street competition 2015

With the growth of online shopping some high streets are struggling to keep up with the competition from digital retail giants. The Great British High Street campaign is about celebrating our high streets to boost the local economy by encouraging people to shop locally. It’s about diversifying the high street so the focus isn’t just on shopping, it’s on eating, drinking, socialising, housing, leisure and embracing new technology.

A big part of the campaign is the Great British High Street of the Year Awards. The competition is open to local groups working in collaboration. That means trade associations, community interest companies, town centre partnerships, Town Teams and Business Improvement Districts. There are seven high street categories: city, town, village, coastal, market town, local precinct or parade of shops, and London high street. There will also be a ‘rising star’ award for a person or project showing dedication or innovation towards making the high street a better place.

The £50,000 prize fund will be shared between the winners. The winners will also receive training and mentoring. Google will run a Digital Garage on Tour for 100 small businesses in the winning areas to help them improve their digital skills and attract more customers.

The digital high streets report 2020 highlighted the importance using digital technology to future-proof high streets increase sales.

Last year’s winners said the kudos of being named a High Street of the Year was as valuable as the prizes, and some reported and increase in footfall to the high street.

This was a fun campaign to work on. The hashtag #GBHighSt was used 4.5k times during the competition, with celebrities Stephen Fry and Beck Adlington showing their support. Some of the entrants got creative on social media, finding fun ways to display the hashtag and getting the local community to post images, videos and reasons why they love their high street.

This year the judges will take into account social media activity by the entrants to rally the community round to support their entry. The public will be able to use an app to vote for their favourite shortlisted high street to win. The competition closes on 1 September and we’ll announce the finalists in October. Keep an eye out for us on Twitter and Facebook.

(This post was originally written for the Local Digital Campaign blog)

10 ideas and tips for town centre regeneration

A year ago I was asked visit seven towns that had received government funding to regenerate their town centres. My brief seemed simple enough: to find out what they were doing and share their ideas on social media so that towns who didn’t receive any funding could learn from them.

Once I started I realised it wasn’t going to be as straightforward as I’d thought. The regeneration projects I saw were fantastic. But many of the ideas were complicated, had taken months of planning, had additional funding from other sources, and were specific to the needs of that particular town. It wasn’t easy to find low-cost ideas that could be easily copied and were simple enough to share on social media. Here are 10 ideas and tips that I hope fit the bill and will be useful to people working on town centre regeneration.

  1. I asked Bernadette Rushton from Rotherham Council what advice she would give people working on town centre regeneration. She said: “Make sure your strategy is based on evidence.” Rotherham asked residents what would bring them back to the town centre. They said they wanted more independent shops – something different to what the malls offer. This gave them a clear strategy to work towards. Rotherham now has over 150 independent shops in the town centre and 92% of shoppers are satisfied with the independent shopping offer (versus 42% in 2009).
    Whistle Stop sweet shop, Rotherham
    Whistle Stop sweet shop, Rotherham

    Miele Italian Deli, Rotherham
    Miele Italian Deli, Rotherham
  2. Encouraging new businesses to the town is great for regeneration, but don’t forget about existing businesses. Keep them up to date with what’s going on and if you have any stats you can share with them about increased footfall to the area this will help them see that new businesses coming to the area can be a benefit to them rather than a threat.

    Orb Gallery, Southampton
    Orb Gallery, Southampton
  3. Vacant units can be livened up with artwork on the windows and doors. Rotherham ran a competition with local artists who hand-painted empty shops.
  4. In Market Rasen free wifi in the high street and market means that traders and visitors can get online.
  5. Hanging baskets in summer and flags in winter have made the high street look more welcoming in Market Rasen.
  6. Both Ipswich and Rotherham have used unique branding to publicise their town centre activities and events. This creates a separate, easily recognisable identity for the town, that isn’t linked to the council or developers, that local businesses can take ownership of.

    All About Ipswich branding
    All About Ipswich branding
  7. Ipswich’s select and collect means that small businesses, who might not have their own websites, can advertise their products online. Shops in Ipswich can put their products on the website and provide a phone number so that shoppers can order over the phone and then go to the store to collect their shopping.
  8. Councillor Michael Hyman from Altrincham has some advice for small towns: “Don’t try to compete with bigger places. Focus on what your town has that’s different. Altrincham can’t compete with the Trafford Centre but it can offer a more traditional shopping experience. We encourage a mix of uses for the town centre, not just retail.”
  9. Mentoring from experienced business people is essential for newbies. At The Maker’s Emporium, 30 artists, many with no retail experience, sell their products in a shared space. They get advice and training from a mentor to help them start their own business. Altrincham and Rotherham also offer a mystery shopping service to give feedback to small businesses on how they can improve their customer service.
  10. The Tourist Information Centre in Gloucester has recruited volunteers to greet coach parties and give them free tours of the town. This means visitors get to see places they might not have otherwise known about and get advice about where to eat and shop from a local.

    Treasure Seekers sweet shop, Gloucester
    Treasure Seekers sweet shop, Gloucester

You can find out more about what the towns have done on Pinterest.

I’ve still got one more place to visit – Herne Hill market in London – which I’m looking forward to seeing soon.

If you have any questions for the towns about their regeneration projects I’ll try and get the answers for you.