‘East Anglia - your shops need you now’
PUBLISHED: 21:34 17 July 2020 | UPDATED: 21:45 17 July 2020
Gina Long talks to the region’s BID (Business Improvement Districts) about their post-COVID-19 recovery programmes, hoping to attract more investment and more visitors
Coronavirus has had a huge impact on the lives of so many people across the world and the loss of so many people is horrific.
The Government’s necessary decision to declare a “lockdown” in late March had a considerable impact upon our town centres, but over the past few weeks, more and more businesses across East Anglia have been able to reopen, and slowly the green shoots of recovery are visible.
Bury St Edmunds
Mark Cordell CEO of Our Bury St Edmunds Business Improvement District said: “The initial challenge has been working with councils, our businesses and the public to ensure that potential customers for our businesses feel reassured in returning.
“We have achieved this through print, broadcast and social media, physical signage in the town centre itself, and encouraging the Council and the arc shopping centre in opening public toilets.
“As always though, the best advertising is the recommendation from friends and family to others and we are hoping the positive experiences of those who have returned first will be passed on and encourage others to follow suit over the next few weeks.
“These challenging times have created opportunities for businesses to restructure their business models and adapt to the needs of customers and see this happening more and more in the future.
“In Bury St Edmunds we have seen some great examples of this, such as a pub converting to a wine shop and a restaurant incorporating a delivery service and providing meals on wheels for the vulnerable.
“Unfortunately, there will be casualties, particularly national chains, who will either cease trading or downsize their estate but the vacant units, with the commitment and help of landlords, can be utilised by smaller Independent businesses or even pop-up shops, where budding entrepreneurs can ‘test the market’ with their products and/or services.
“We need all town centre stakeholders to take a more flexible approach to these new challenges so we can work together and make changes that will still attract large numbers of people into our town centres.
“In Bury St Edmunds we have great support from the local community and an ever-increasing interest from tourists, and we want to do all we can to welcome as many people into the town centre for the rest of this year and into 2021, where we will be celebrating the 1000th anniversary of the Abbey.
“Our recent hashtag has been #Burybouncingback, and in July footfall levels are around 60% of last year but we now need the support of everyone to get our vibrant town centre back to where it was pre-lockdown.”
Vicky Etheridge, BID manager for Kings Lynn, says: “Our town centre was changing before the pandemic struck. Cafes, restaurants, nail bars and beauty salons have been on the rise for a while and there was a perceptible shift in the way that people were using the area.
“Shopping was no longer the primary reason for visiting the town centre. People were coming in to meet friends, to relax, to buy services they couldn’t get online, and then do a bit of shopping whilst they were here. Fast forward three months and there is nervousness amongst many about returning to the town centre. Those emerging businesses that were leading the change have been amongst those hit the hardest and there is concern that the worst might still be to come.
“King’s Lynn is a beautiful town, often overlooked by visitors who flock to the nearby coast. It’s the kind of place that once visited you can’t help but remark ‘I never knew it was so lovely, I had no idea it was like that’.
“Apparently, we have more Grade I listed buildings than York and you’ll encounter the warmest, friendliest service you could wish to receive.
“Our town centre has its share of national retailers and eateries but it is also peppered with quirky independents who are knowledgeable and passionate about their trade. The Eat Out to Help Out scheme is a welcome boost to the range of cafes, bars and restaurants in the high street and along with our historic quay and market places.
“Come and visit us for lunch and enjoy a walk and a mooch around town afterwards you never know what you might find.” www.discoverkingslynn.com
Stefan Gurney, executive director of Norwich Business Improvement District (BID) comments: “It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a bit of a rollercoaster year so far. For lots of us, the lockdown has consisted of 9am exercise classes, homeschooling, endless Zooming, and more Netflix than we care to admit – so now is the perfect opportunity to re-discover Norwich City of Stories.
“As businesses open their doors again, we want to give people the confidence to come back to support their city. We want people to know that Norwich is waking up again and – although it looks a bit different to how it did – it is safe and still exciting.
“Our much-missed attractions, restaurants, bars, and cafés are back in business and have gone to extraordinary lengths to protect their teams and customers. We might have to stay apart, but that does not mean we can’t work together to keep each other safe.
“Over the past four months, we have missed so much. A cone of chips from the Grosvenor Fish Bar. Cold beer from Sir Toby’s on the market. Leisurely browsing John Lewis for belated birthday gifts. We’ve missed out on haircuts. On seeing our family. “Norwich remains a city full of culture, style, food and friends. We miss you all and want you to know that now more than ever, our city needs your support. Norwich is not just its streets; it’s our community… and we are all part of its next chapter.” www.norwichbid.co.uk
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Jonathan Newman, Great Yarmouth Town Centre Partnership manager says the town centre has welcomed the reopening of hair salons, pubs, cafes and restaurants with the most recent easing of the coronavirus lockdown measures, which, following the reopening of non-essential retail last month, means that the majority of businesses are up-and-running again in the town centre.
He has worked closely with Great Yarmouth Borough Council on measures to promote social distancing in public spaces, while also providing local businesses with guidance and printed materials. Mr Newman praised the businesses themselves that have gone to great lengths in following the government guidance for their particular sectors to keep their staff and their customers safe from Covid-19.
“The town centre businesses have been resourceful in adapting to the challenges and as a partnership, we will continue to promote social distancing advice as we firmly believe that by keeping a safe distance, washing our hands and using the hand sanitiser when available, everyone can shop, eat, drink and enjoy our town centre safely.”
Amie Mullen, BID manager for Lowestoft Vision, says: “The past five months have really highlighted the value we place on our local communities to shop local, and this is more important than ever now that our local town centres get back to business.
“During the lockdown period our local retailers and businesses moved quickly to ensure we were able to continue to provide essential services and items whilst supporting the ‘Stay at Home’ message. In late March Discover Lowestoft, the marketing brand of Lowestoft Vision, created a new section on its website entitled ‘Essential Lowestoft’ where retailers and businesses shared opening times, online services, and options for take away and collection services, ensuring the community could continue to shop local. This was widely promoted via ocial media and was proved to be invaluable to businesses and consumers.
“Our town centre businesses can also keep up-to-date on the latest legislation through Lowestoft Vision’s online hub COVID-19 information, where there are resources and updates, providing an easy to access ‘one stop shop’ for guidance and support.
“Now that we move in to the recovery stage, the BID has worked alongside our local councils and other stakeholders to provide signage and a whole raft of safety measures within the town centre that ensures our town centre is a safe place to visit, work and shop.
“Our message now is to shop local – your town centre is a safe and friendly place to visit and our retailers are looking forward to welcoming you back!”
Paul Brown, BID manager of Love Newmarket comments: “During lockdown, many of our members have worked hard to adapt their businesses in preparation for the ‘new normal’. In some cases this has involved going online or offering a local delivery service. Furthermore those members that have since re-opened their brick and mortar stores have gone above and beyond to ensure their customers feel safe and confident that all necessary precautions are being taken.
“However, despite all this good work, it’s now in the hands of local residents to support our town and high street. As the lockdown has eased, the most noticeable difference is the drop in footfall which is fully understandable as the virus is still out there and people don’t want to contract it.
“As part of our Shop Local campaign we have reminded residents that you can still support your high street even if you can’t get out. Next time you want to buy an item online consider whether a local online company is selling it rather than going straight online. We are very lucky at Newmarket to still have a great selection of independent stores that offer first-class customer service. Now is the moment we must all unite together to save our high street and preserve it for the future.” www.lovenewmarket.co.uk
The message from our region’s BID bosses is clear. Each of them hoping to gain your support, in helping your local businesses, as they try to get back up on their feet during these extraordinary times. Please remember to keep yourself and others safe by following the guidelines and advice provided by the businesses when you visit. And remember masks are now a requirement in shops and supermarkets from July 24.
What is a BID?
BIDs originated in North America towards the end of the last Ccntury and were created from statutory legislation in the UK, which was laid before Parliament in 2004.
The concept is to allow businesses, within a certain geographical area, to pay an annual levy to a private company, which uses the contributions to improve the trading environment for businesses within the designated area (usually town centres).
There are over 300 BIDs in the UK and each one employs staff and has a board of directors, usually volunteers from the businesses in their BID.
There is a requirement for the income generated to be reinvested into the BID and every five years each BID is required to hold a ballot seeking the approval of their membership to continue for a further five years.
BIDs are required to create business plans for each five-year term and then deliver the pledges within the plans, for the benefit of their businesses.
BIDs are totally independent from councils and other statutory authorities such as the police but work closely with these organisations to ensure their destinations are as “customer friendly” as possible.
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