Tuesday, 14 February 2012

So what is everyone doing?

The last post was about working together, responding to the words of the Chamber of Trade and the Council.  I am aware of what the council are doing in the city centre and I know what the Chamber of Trade think, so I was keen to see what they're planning to do in the city centre.  I don't know if there is any formal meetings of city centre retailers, so I was keen to meet a few and see what they're looking to do about what issues they face.  I went to the Insight With Passion retail roadshow on Monday night, after hearing about in the local media, I thought this would be an ideal time to see what retailers are aiming to do and even do some 'networking'.  No retailers turned up.  A free event, one of many being held across Yorkshire, giving free advice to retailers and not one retailer turned up.  No one from the council was there, no one from the Chamber of Trade.  It might have been a bad night to have the event, it might not have been marketed well, but it will be interesting to compare this with the events in other towns.  I was actually the only Bradford representative there, who wasn't from the Telegraph & Argus.  The organisers of the event had said that they'd personally approached retailers asking if they wanted to attend and as things were looking, Bradford was probably going to have the lowest turnout despite being one of the biggest centres and having the highest vacancy rate.  My first few posts of the blog talked about the  Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats facing the city centre.  Its got problems that need addressing, but there are heaps of reasons not to give up and why giving up is not an option, I can't accept that people have just given up.

Who are you? What do you sell?  People say Bradford is so bad now that they don't even bother coming into shop, they'll head straight to other neighbouring cities.  So they're not even walking past your shops in the first place.  Where is your online presence?  Are you on Twitter?  I haven't seen many of you yet.  How much does it cost to set up a blog like this? £0, Twitter account £0 - you could even all do one collectively.  Or tell me things to put on here, or other sites like Bradford Buzz.

Things are so much cheaper online, people don't want to pay 60p to park in the city centre - but you're in the city centre already, so what's so special about coming to you instead of online, even if you're not the cheapest?  How do we know you have a specialist knowledge?  How do you demonstrate great quality customer service?  What does great customer service cost to implement?  You could even  host an event for a small cost, maybe even do that collectively?  Do you talk to one another?

Manchester Vintage Clothes Shops, Northern Quarter, Manchester City Centre

Chamber of Trade

To be honest, I'm a little confused about the difference between The Chamber of Trade and Chamber of Commerce, apart from the latter has a much better website.  The Chamber of Trade's website hasn't been updated since 2003.  Maybe the Chamber of Trade could have a City Centre Retail competition?  Best customer service, best shop front, innovater of the year?  I don't know, do they do this already? Then they need to shout louder.  

I know the Chamber of Trade don't like Car Parking.  On street parking is more expensive in Huddersfield and Halifax, the independent retail scene appears to be more thriving there - what is the difference to Bradford?  Is it more fundamental than car parking and do the retailers and Chamber of Trade have a role to play themselves?

The Council

The council collect lots of data, monitoring shop occupancy and footfall - how do they share this with retailers?  Car Parking is an issue in the city centre - do the council have any data about how many people actually travel to the centre by car and how does this compare with neighbouring cities?  Do people overstate the problem of car parking tickets?  Parking enforcement is a source of income to the authority, but this needs to be measured against the attractiveness of the city centre.  The centre has a myriad of bus lanes, areas with different parking restrictions applying - how can these be communicated more effectively?  The council website has easy to find information about off street parking, but what about where you can drive or where you can park on the street?  Even if parking wasn't free at somewhere like Meadowhall, how do you think they would communicate such information to visitors?  

The Council and The Police

Does the council have an alcohol exclusion zone? Why do I see people drinking super strength lager in the street every night if they do?  Why when I go out on a night am I being asked for 'spare change mate'?  It doesn't bother me so much, I see it a lot in other cities, but it seems more frequent in Bradford and this presents a very poor image, especially at night when there aren't many other people around.

Property Owners and Others

The topic of pop up shops has been debated at great length. Some artwork from schools went up at the bottom of Darley Street - it looked good, less so six months later.  There's some great photos online of different parts of Bradford, some great photographers, some great architectural heritage in the city to celebrate, this would cost relatively little and make empty shops look a bit more presentable, so why not?  These could take on a bigger role for more formal events, like the International Film Festival.
Evening opening
Large groups of shops are vacant, like on Market Street and at the Rawson Quarter.  If the Fabric scheme at Zavvi is going to be a place for budding retailers to set up shop, where do they go after that?  Property owners could offer reduced rents to businesses who've come through the Fabric scheme or such schemes, who could receive business plan advice from the Chamber of Commerce / Chamber of Trade, or from the College or even from the Council.  Could people like Spacemakers Agency help?  There's likely to be financial pressures in Local Government in the coming years, but assitance could be provided to fit out shops, as it has down in Rotherham.  What is the reason why landlords should receive a lower rent, instead of no rent at all plus business rates?

A lot of questions here, what are the answers?

Rawson Quarter, Bradford

1 comment:

  1. Another great post. Mixes and obvious passion with cold, hard facts. I was aghast when I saw that no shop owners turned up to the free event. I assumed it was due to poor advertisement of the event but, as you note above, it appears not. Also, you're right - why is there so little from individual companies on the web and social media? A night like the one they passed up would've been fantastic to get them up to speed.

    Keep up the excellent work!