As small businesses continue to struggle against rising business rates and falling visitor numbers, what can be done to help boost local town centres?
There is no shortage of initiatives to help small businesses and town centres. What is needed is for a business community to pull together to take advantage of these opportunities.
For many smaller businesses, the core customer base is reducing rapidly. Online shopping is taking a huge chunk of retail spend from town centres. Out of town shopping is also reducing local footfall. What is it that town centres can offer to bring local and visiting customers back?
Facilities is the first option. What does your town centre offer apart from shopping? Is there somewhere that children can be entertained? Does it have decent public toilets? How easy is it to park within walking distance of the shops? Is there somewhere to go when it starts raining that doesn’t cost money? Does your town have somewhere for people to meet and spend time together?
Next is availability. When are there opportunities for people to shop in your town? As many smaller towns grow with housing developments, people are travelling to work outwith the area. Does your town centre offer an opportunity for shopping in the evening or weekends? Would that first hour of opening between 9am 10am be more useful to local residents between 5pm and 6pm? If your town has many people walking to work, maybe opening from 8am to 9am would be beneficial?
Now let’s look at national initiatives which could bring more custom to local business. With the publicity surrounding plastic waste, why not try and get businesses in your area to reduce plastic use? Media coverage would be almost guaranteed for something such as totally removing plastic bags or all cafés removing plastic straws within a town centre. For many people concerned about plastic waste, this would be enough to encourage them to visit your town centre.
Small Business Saturday has a national campaign normally in early December to promote shopping with local small businesses. If you are based in a small town, maybe you could get every small business signed up. Again, a media worthy initiative that would bring your town to national attention.
So much is being made about holding events in towns to try and drive footfall to local businesses. Why not hold your own event? Instead of bringing in outside traders why not hold your own street market or street entertainment. There are usually many local groups who would be happy to showcase their abilities to the local community. This also helps build links with local groups and possibly increased business from their members.
Many of the above will not take much to implement and could have a marked effect on local town centres and the businesses based there. It’s time to get together with other local businesses and start making a difference.