Summer is in the Air

Summer is in the Air

Summer is nearly here and along with warmer temperatures and longer days, we continue to see a period of unprecedented political and economic change as well as big changes to business rates across the town. While these things are unsettling and not easy to influence, there are things we can do to navigate change and create opportunity by working together in the town centre.

Building on our strong DNA, we continue to actively promote our beautiful town centre. Extending into the digital space, we have attracted over 17,000 followers across social media streams and regularly get 30,000 visits per month to our www.royal-leamington-spa.co.uk website. We have also just launched ‘Taste Leamington’ a new branded website to promote the Food & Drink sector.

All of this helps to foster loyalty and offer customers a spectacular experience, which combined with the work local businesses are doing is very much part of the culture of ‘working together’ that we all nurture.

We are once again looking forward to our ‘Summer of Fun’ – an exciting calendar of events delivered by both BID Leamington and a huge number of volunteers. These events attract thousands of visitors every year.

Fostering a healthy trading environment has to be backed up so we are doing lots of work supporting businesses on issues such as crime, shoplifting, begging, waste management, parking, planning and enforcement.

We are also representing business interests in the face of emerging development challenges – such as the Covent Garden Carpark Development proposals. This will see the town’s largest 600 space car park developed as a mixed use site – with parking, offices and dwellings. To address potential issues we have formed a ‘Development Strategy Group’ with representation from key businesses (which is open to all) and support from WDC officers.

All of this helps the town centre and its community to remain resilient and well placed to navigate change.

However, we know that even small changes to footfall, spend and currency can impact businesses, particularly our smaller ones. That is why we continue to support businesses to stay nimble and where needed act in new ways such as embracing new technologies, building unique bundles of products and services, utilising email databases, promoting your expertise and to work together in imaginative ways.

With a number of activities and events coming up, here are a few ideas about how to capitalise on the captive audience they bring …

Making the most of events, marketing & promotions …

  • Would you like to feature in the next photo shoot … just let us know?
  • Do you have any news or offers for the royal-leamington-spa.co.uk – just email them through to info@bidleamington.com anytime .Host a themed event in your shop.
  • We will promote it on the ‘Royal Leamington Spa’ website and in local papers.
  • Give us flyers or offers to distribute at events. We often have a stall and staff on standby to help you get involved in some way.
  • Tweet it Up! Look out for the relevant hashtags –  #LoveLeam #TasteLeam #LeamFoodFest
  • Help us bring the town alive with fabulous themed window displays…how about a cycling theme for the upcoming Woman’s Cycle Tour? (June 9th).

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to know more.

Stephanie Kerr
May 2017

Business Rates – What is the Story for Leamington?

Business Rates – What is the Story for Leamington?

After long delays, the revaluation of business rates has been announced. The government presented this largely as a ‘good news’ story but businesses up and down the country have been raising concerns, prompting MP’s to urgently seek feedback.

So what’s the real story and what will this mean for businesses in Leamington? …

This is what I have fed back to Chris White MP whose support I am grateful for, and I welcome any further comments you have.

The changes in the town vary between sector and business size, and impact them in different ways.

Reviewing the number, we can see that more shops, pubs and restaurants (292) have seen an increase in rateable value (RV) than a decrease (248) and there were a number that did not change. While, the total decrease in rateable value is greater than the increase, it still means that around 40% of businesses are seeing an increase and this is unwelcome.

In contrast, rates have generally gone up for Warehouses, Workshops and Factories (129 up, 23 down) and down for Offices (56 up, 257 down), so this is why it is difficult to generalise when making judgements about the overall impact.

We absolutely welcome changes to rates relief that will mean the very smallest businesses in the town (rated 15K or below) benefit further.

However due to higher property values, many independent traders and high street businesses in properties with an RV above 15K will see very little change or a potential increase if their RV has risen.

This includes many businesses on Warwick and Regent Street, who in the past year have had to absorb additional costs relating to pensions, National Living Wage and a sharp increase in wholesale prices due to the devaluation of the pound post Brexit.

Also many of these businesses are not in a position to benefit from a strong on-line offer to supplement overhead costs at their premises and some are paying more for business rates than they do rent. They also contribute hugely to our interesting and vibrant local economy whose benefits are felt far beyond the town centre.

Taxing businesses solely on property value no longer reflects the economic realty, which has seen a huge rise in online shopping and growth in online businesses. It also places a disproportionate burden on independent businesses, which are considered to be the lifeblood of our town centre, and struggle to lower overhead costs through economies of scale.

Furthermore, the appeals system is cumbersome, has huge backlogs and is very stressful for business owners, as they are sometimes faced with demands for back-payments that go into the years.

Changes also negatively impact our larger businesses whose costs are also set to rise even further through the introduction of the Apprenticeship Levy, staff costs and because of increasing economic uncertainty.

BID Leamington asks the Government to support short-term measures such as tax relief to mitigate the impacts of these rises. We would also recommend extending the tapered rates relief threshold beyond 15K, as this would benefit a far higher percentage of small businesses in Leamington and similar towns.

In the longer term, BID Leamington supports calls from the FSB and others for the Government to commit to a major review of the Business Rating system to ensure we have a system that best supports business growth in the current environment.

If you would like to find out more about these changes and what support is available please do not hesitate to get in touch by emailing info@bidleamington.com or calling 01926 470 634.

Businesses rated below 15K may need to contact Warwick District Council (WDC) to ensure they receive the rate relief they are entitled to. Alternatively please download this form and return it to WDC: 2017 APPLICATION FOR SMALL BUSINESS RELIE1

To find out your ratable value (RV) please visit: https://www.gov.uk/correct-your-business-rates

Stephanie Kerr
21st February, 2017

BID Meeting with a Twist – Spaghetti and Segways!

BID Meeting with a Twist – Spaghetti and Segways!

Spaghetti and Segways were on the menu at a local BID Leamington business meeting for Leamington’s retailers and restaurateurs.

BID Leamington, which works to promote the town and its retail, food, and drink offering to visitors, organised the open networking event for town centre businesses, with national retail store managers and independent business owners in attendance.

Guest speakers at the event, which took place in the Royal Pump Room Gardens, were local business figures Graham Todd and Jo Ciriani of Spaghetti Agency, who gave expert advice on the digital landscape in a Q and A session, and April Weller of UK Segway Polo, who brought along Segways for guests to try out.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said the BID recognises the significance of networking events as an important way of supporting local businesses.

“Each year we organise several networking evenings which help us get to know business owners and share ideas about how we can work together to support the local business community,” Stephanie said.

“This time we wanted to do something a little different, so we were pleased to attract both the owners of independent restaurants and retail shops as well as managers from national chain stores.

“These events are held with the aim of helping businesses to get to know each other and develop collaborative ideas and new skills, so with Todd and Jo sharing best online practice for businesses, and April encouraging attendees to network and socialise in a unique and fun way, we’re confident we achieved this.”

First to address guests was Todd, who co-founded local social media and online marketing company Spaghetti Agency, which trains businesses in the professional use of social media.

Todd, who also heads up the UK’s leading 4N group, Leamington 4Networking, said the event showed the exciting energy and entrepreneurial thirst in the town.

He said: “We love the creative and independent spirit in Leamington, and it was great to collaborate with BID Leamington. It’s always a pleasure to speak at events in the community and as big networkers we enjoy bringing businesses together to give them useful tips and ideas.

“Most businesses want to use social media and have ideas but are not always confident to use it, so I gave guidance on which social media channels are effective for different businesses. I also shared some simple tips that can be used to reach wider audiences – with the aim to ultimately increase awareness and sales.”

The session was followed by an introduction to the game of Segway Polo – a new sport which is a variant of traditional polo and hockey – which co-founder and partner of Warwick Segway Polo, April Weller, co-ordinated as part of a networking exercise.

April said: “Segway Polo really is the ‘Sport of Equals’, so we were delighted to bring along Segways and introduce guests to this new and exciting sport, which is really growing in popularity among working professionals – who are one of our key target markets.

“Warwickshire and more specifically, Warwick Segway Polo Club, is the main base for Segway Polo in the UK so the event was a great opportunity to meet local people and raise awareness of the sport, and we had a great reaction – people signed up to the Warwick Segway Polo Club Facebook page and MeetUp.com page to attend practice sessions.”

For more information about the businesses mentioned please see: www.bidleamington.com; www.spaghettiagency.co.uk; www.warwicksegwaypoloclub.org

Tapping into Our Strong DNA

Tapping into Our Strong DNA

Summer is just around the corner and once again we will be tapping into the town’s strong DNA and working together to create fun and opportunity in the town center this summer.

This can be seen in our incredible entrepreneurial history, beautiful architecture, stunning gardens and strong mix of small and large businesses. Over the last five years we have nurtured and built on this foundation to create a culture of working together to foster loyalty and offer customers a spectacular experience.

There is also an exciting calendar of events – some of which are delivered by BID Leamington but many delivered by hard working volunteers in the community. These events attract thousands of visitors to the town centre every year.

All this combined means that the town centre and its community is resilient and well placed to navigate change. However, there is no doubt that there still uncertainty and we know that even small changes to footfall, spend and currency can impact businesses, particularly our smaller ones. That is why we will be working hard to support local businesses to continue to ‘play to your strengths’ – buying smartly and offering fabulous products, service and experiences.

We will also be supporting and encouraging businesses to stay nimble and to act in new ways where needed. Things that can be considered include embracing new technologies, building unique bundles of products and services, utilising your email databases creatively, promoting your expertise and supporting each other to work together in imaginative ways.

With a number of activities and events coming up, here are a few ideas about how to capitalise on the captive audience they bring …

Making the most of events, marketing & promotions …

  • Would you would like to feature in the next photo shoot … just let us know?
  • Do you have any news or offers for the royal-leamington-spa.co.uk – just email them through to info@bidleamington.com anytime.
  • Host a themed event in your shop. We will promote it on the ‘Royal Leamington Spa’ website and in the local papers.
  • Give us flyers or offers to distribute at events. We often have a stall and staff on standby to help you get involved in some way.
  • Tweet it Up! Look out for the relevant hashtags –  #LoveLeam #LeamFoodFest etc.
  • Help us bring the town alive with fabulous themed window displays

Please do not hesitate to get in touch if you would like to know more.

Stephanie Kerr
July 2016

A Word from Mary!

A Word from Mary!

A Word from Mary!

Over the bank holiday I had the chance to hear from none other than Mary Portas – Britain’s very own ‘Shop Girl’.

I count myself among the many who have both enjoyed and appreciated the focus that Mary has brought back onto the high street. Hearing her in person, I was immediately struck by her warmth, honesty and genuine enthusiasm for helping Britain’s businesses thrive. She generously tackled some big questions about the fate of BHS, the EU election, the growth of charity shops (her own chain included) as well as the launch of her new book ‘Shop Girl’ (which is actually what she was there to talk about!).

Below are a few sound-bites that I took away and thought you might enjoy …

On decision making… “When you are in the moment you feel it – you have to be instinctive and you have to have vision. If it feels like the right thing to do then trust that it is – once you do something from an instinctual place, it builds”.

On your vision … “you need to be visionary from the beginning”.

On getting noticed … “make fashion fun” and think about “how do I get this business talked about?”.

On ethics… “have a moral compass – what’s good for me is good for the world” … “my advice is think ethical and experience together … and think about your values”.

On towns … “Clone towns will change because we don’t need to live like we have in the past. People will be spending more on experiences, social spaces, creativity, connection, niche, mixed with health and wellbeing”.

On consumerism … “Greed and gain is moving to a more ethical society. People want experiences to feed their soul. We are going into a much better era!”. “We want tactile, physical experience that we can’t get online …”

On connectivity … “People are craving connectivity – the ones that have this at the heart of their business are the ones we will see in the future”.

On change … “it is very hard to make change happen unless you have people who understand what the end goal is …people then make the choice”. “It is better to look out than in – the greater good is people coming together to make change happen”.

In her own words … “The more you do it (talk openly), the more free you are” … “stay ahead by not thinking you know it all” … “be inspired by the people you work with” … “I have ‘no hierarchy in my business” … “Let people be who they are and they give you so much” …

By Stephanie Kerr
02 May 2016

Marching On in The Face of Change

Marching On in The Face of Change

Marching On in The Face of Change

We have been doing lots of reflection and planning over the last few months, so we wanted to draw your attention to some of the things we have been thinking about.

The town centre has seen significant change as it has shifted to a retail and leisure destination. This is evident by the number of new restaurants and cafes that have opened and refurbished so we’re aware that there is now far more choice and competition. Among other things, this has resulted in a change in footfall patterns, both in terms of why people visit, where people go and the times of the day the town is most active.

In the wider landscape, shoppers in the UK are now leading the charge internationally with respect to the percentage (per head of population) who shop online. We know one of the towns USP’s is the ‘independent retail’ sector, so Love Leamington was launched largely to showcase our ‘indie businesses online’ but this is just the start. We have also seen a huge increase in the amount of engagement we have had with our digital marketing and over the Christmas period posted material for more than 400 businesses, products or events.

Supporting businesses at a time of change is very important to us. This is pushing us to consider how we can support and showcase our sectors further. Other changes have also prompted us to question things like trading hours; ‘click & collect’ parking bays; a ‘Taste Leamington’ web presence; town centre WIFI; supporting the ‘digital high street’ and collective costs saving initiatives. To help us gauge your interest we invite you to complete a short survey in the ‘toolbox’.

Looking to the local newspapers, changes at a local government level are creating both opportunities and challenges. While the localism agenda aims to bring decision making back into the hands of communities, this sits alongside funding cuts forcing local authorities to look at their priorities.

This has already resulted in changes to the way car parking is delivered and looking forward there are a number of development proposals being discussed for both the Pump Rooms & Spencer’s Yard and the Covent Garden Carpark. While there are no easy answers, we are certain the business community needs to be involved in decision making and shaping future changes.

These are among the many things that the BID team and partner organisations are working on so please get in touch if you would like to find out more…

By Stephanie Kerr
01 April 2016