July 19, 2017
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As a result of a one off grant of £52,000 from Communities and Local Government Empty Shops Fund the Bridgwater Retail Initiative(BRI) was formed comprising of representatives of the District Council, Bridgwater Town Council, Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce, Business Link, Bridgwater Industrialists, Angel Place Shopping Centre, Bridgwater Arts Centre, Bridgwater College, Federation of Small Businesses Pardoes Solicitors, Timeless Images, and local letting agents. Tamlyn’s, Lyndon Brett Partnership and McKinlays. ShopJacket Consultancy Services and an appointed BRI Project Manager.
All initial funding has been allocated, from which a range of initiatives have been developed and have been, or are being implemented. The Town Council has pledged a further £13,000 cash injection to support the initiatives and continuation of BRI, but it was critical that other funds were secured for the longevity of Bridgwater Retail Initiative and the benefits it can bring to the Town’s economy and community.
With the support of town centre stakeholders and local businesses, the BRI Partnership plans to further develop a range of projects which include supporting new retail, developing the skills of existing businesses, and raising the profile of the town centre, with the aim that our work compliments the longer term Bridgwater Vision.
The partnership identified the Town Council as being the best placed to take lead responsibility for the business case bid to help secure the continuation of the Bridgwater Retail Initiative project. This resulted in securing an additional £10,000 from Magnox socio economic funds. This will allow the Town Council in partnership with the other stakeholders to:-
Continue to build on the work undertaken to reduce the number of vacant retail properties in the town and/or improve understanding of why they are empty, providing support to owners to aid lettings. Use of town centre analysis software to measure our retail offering and compare with other towns in the region.
Expand the provision of match funded grants for new businesses opening in empty shops. (14 new retail businesses have opened in Bridgwater in the last year). A good working relationship has been developed with the Frederick Foundation.
With permission of property owners, to involve the community in bringing vacant “shop windows” in the town centre to life via pop up shops or by promoting the use and benefit to business owners of the “meanwhile lease” arrangements. Installation of shopjacket window treatment to give an idea for a business and to tidy a run down empty property, and using community groups to dress windows. Encouraging businesses to merchandise for the seasonal calendar with window dressing incentives.
To use every opportunity to sell the benefits of Sedgemoor and particularly the Bridgwater town centre to those visiting or who wish to move to the area. The BRI have had numerous press articles in the local media., successful promotions in Somerset Life, and Radio 4, Featured on Inside out West TV documentary. Have also received visits from other local authorities interested in what is happening in Bridgwater. The work of the BRI will be appearing in the June 2011 Somerset Life.
To continue to offer support/promotion of the business directory via the bridgwatertown.com website, and Bridgwater Town Centre guides. Plans in progress for both.
To communicate with all new businesses and help signpost them to right support services to help them as they move into the Town Centre and existing businesses who may wish to relocate.
Working with Federation of Small Businesses to support and promote “Shop Local” initiatives and the Bridgwater Chamber of Commerce Loyalty Card Scheme.
Provide further practical business support and advice, not currently available from existing agencies, e.g. property advice; education to new and existing independent retailers to assist them in raising their merchandising and to enhance customers shopping experience. Successful workshops, open to all businesses in Sedgemoor, have been run on retail merchandising, property advice and business coaching/development. Over 75 businesses have experienced these workshops and provided excellent feedback. From responses received we have developed a cost effective 1:1 merchandising service, offering inspiration and advice to retailers in Sedgemoor.
We are working with the National Retail Skill Council, with a view to participating in the Retail Ambassador scheme and will be arranging some Mystery Shoppers to provide customer service feedback to participating retailers.
Improve the Street Scene of the Town Centre with a range of initiatives. Including cosmetic improvements and supporting the expansion of the Street Markets. The Market has been given a new name “Bridgwater Castle Market”, is starting to expand and now runs weekly. Bench seating is being refurbished and plans in place for updating directional signage.
Supporting other events in the high street as an amphitheatre for family life. Snowflakes and Shopping, Spring and Shopping, Summer Celebration events plus range of competitions to involve the businesses and the community.
Our longer term objective is to secure further funding to ensure the longevity of the BRI projects and to examine a BID as a potential solution for the future management of the town centre which, if implemented could create a private partnership that could be self funding with every business taking part.If you, or your business, can help in any way, please do not hesitate to get in touch via one of the Stakeholders.