Ensuring Leamington Thrives – Ballot 2018

Ensuring Leamington Thrives – Ballot 2018

We were very pleased to welcome businesses to House of Fraser for the launch of the BID Leamington renewal proposal.

Businesses learnt about how we will ensure the town centre remains a competitive, vibrant and well-managed destination in the future.

There is no doubt that given all the changes, challenges and opportunities facing the town centre, it is more important than ever that businesses have the focused delivery, representation and support that BID provides.

Among the topics, we discussed the way the town centre and consumer behaviour is changing and how with increased competition both online and in neighbouring towns and cities, the need to attract customers and enhance their experience is more important than ever. This may be through the delivery of events and marketing (valued at £160,000 per year) or the provision of enhancements such as maps, floral decorations and Christmas Lights and campaigning on issues such as parking and begging (valued at over £60,000 per year).

We covered developments that will be going on in the town centre during the next five year BID term. This includes the Covent Garden Car Park redevelopment (31% of spaces) and the Old Town Creative Quarter. Business representation is essential to ensure we successfully mitigate the impacts of this and create the right opportunities to improve the town.

There are a number of exciting opportunities on the horizon also. This includes the Coventry City of Culture 2021 which is expected to drive millions of pounds of investment and visitors into the region and the Commonwealth Games in 2022 which Leamington is a host venue. Preparing to attract and accommodate these new visitors will take a focused effort.

Alongside this business support will remain an important part of the BID Leamington offer. There is a huge range of things we help businesses with on a 1:1 basis from digital health, planning, rent and rates reviews, begging, overhead costs, waste management and more. We expect the need for this to increase so have planned for that in the new Business Plan.

In terms of next steps, by now you should have received the ‘Notice of Ballot’ setting out the upcoming ballot arrangements and you will receive your ‘Ballot Paper’ at the beginning of March.

Voting ‘YES’ will ensure that BID Leamington and all its services are retained for a further five years.

We know there is a lot to do, but equally there is much to lose so please do take the time to read the information that is delivered to you and do not hesitate to contact either myself or Alison if you have any questions.

For more information on the ballot please click here.

Securing Our Town’s Future Together

Securing Our Town’s Future Together

Happy New Year!

With the arrival of 2018 comes much change as well as new challenges and opportunities as we greet two very significant proposals that will affect the town’s future.

The first, is that permission has been granted to develop the Covent Garden Car Park which will have a significant impact on local shoppers and staff when development begins. Secondly, after ten successful years of activity BID Leamington will once again be asking businesses to support it’s continuation in the 2018-2023 Renewal Ballot. This happens every five years.

These two things are related because in many ways it is more important than ever that businesses have the focused delivery, representation and support that BID Leamington provides.

Other developments are also on the horizon – in the Old Town plans to develop the ‘Creative Quarter’ have been announced and we will see ourselves defending the town against more out-of-town retail development. As well as this, there are many business challenges to tackle and exciting opportunities to embrace in coming years, such as the Commonwealth Games 2022 (Leamington Spa is hosting the Bowls), Coventry City of Culture 2021 and a new train-line from Kenilworth to Leamington. 

Based on extensive engagement in 2017 and market research, a new Business Plan 2018-2023 will be launched at our Business Meeting on the 7th February.

Further ballot related documentation will arrive mid February, before the ballot papers arrive in March. Retail and leisure businesses in the BID area with an RV of £15,000 or more will have 1 month to vote. Please note, papers may be posted to head offices, so please get in touch if you have any questions about this.

Please take a look at our upcoming events and activities. We have lots planned throughout February and March to drive visitors and raise awareness of your business over Valentines Day and Easter. We will also be taking bookings for future events and promotions such as the Food & Drink Festival and summer Little Book of Offers, which go ahead subject to the continuation of the BID.

The BID team care for the town and its business community. We are committed to representing your interests and working in partnership to shape how the town develops. We also have lots of ways for you to benefit directly also so please get in touch to find out how you can get more involved. We very much enjoy dreaming up some ideas together as there is nothing we like more than helping businesses to get the best out of the town.

We wish you an exciting and prosperous year!

Stephanie & Alison

The New BID Town Centre Facebook Group is HERE!

The New BID Town Centre Facebook Group is HERE!

We would love you to join us on our new Facebook Group and join in the conversation today! 

At BID Leamington, we want to hear what is happening inside your business and would love to have more communication with all of our retailers. Facebook is a great way of doing this so we have set up a closed Facebook Group for all of our retailers to join.

What is the aim of this group?

We will be using the group to share information, ideas, collaboration opportunities, member offers and generally keep up to date. It is also a safe place for you to talk about issues and challenges you are facing and a space for people to give advice about different ideas they have.

We will be updating you with:

  • Regular news and updates about the work that we are doing.
  • Regular Facebook Lives from the BID Leamington Office.
  • Interviews with business holders to give you ideas to help grow your business.
  • A space to talk openly about issues you are facing with people who have gone through the same.

We would love for you to share with the group:

  • Any news and updates on offers and discounts available at your store.
  • Information about events happening within your company or in-store.
  • Hints and Tips that you wanted to share with other retailers.
  • Any successes that you want to share with others!.

If you would like to join our group and be a part of our community, please CLICK HERE! 

Remembering Gerry McManus

Remembering Gerry McManus

It is with great sadness the business community in Leamington town centre learnt of the sudden death of Royal Priors centre manager Gerry McManus.

The ‘gentle giant’ passed away on Monday (September 11) following a short illness. He was 53 years-old and is survived by his wife and two children.

Coventry City fan Gerry had a long and illustrious career at the Leamington centre, and many have spoken about what he meant to them.

Friend and colleague Stephanie Kerr, director of BID Leamington said “Gerry was a champion of all things good. He was hugely generous and a team player who believed that when we work together in a town, we all benefit.

“As one of the key instigators of BID Leamington over ten years ago, he served as a board member with passion, positivity and good sense throughout. This was among the things he was very proud of – in his words ‘working to make sure the jewel in Warwickshire’s crown is sparkling’.

“While always proud of his Coventry roots, his passion for Leamington was unbounded and he had that special quality of being someone people loved to work with. As a good friend and colleague he will be always remembered and greatly missed. Our thoughts are with his family and friends.”

Staff at the Royal Priors say they will miss their close friend and manager.

A spokesman said: “We can confirm that Gerry has died after a short illness and our thoughts are with his family and friends at this time.

“Gerry was a fantastic presence in the centre and he brought his wealth of knowledge, experience and enthusiasm to his job every day. He was a hugely popular, much-loved and well-respected figure across the Leamington community and will be sorely missed.”

Kelly Iles, Owner of Spangles American Diner – which until recently was based in the Priors opposite Wilkos – has also spoken of her shock.

She said: “Spangles would never of been created or existed had it not been for this man. He took a risk on the little independent nobody that was me, helped me start my diner, my dream and vision, believed in me and let me bend the rules a bit but not too much and guided me in business.

“Sometimes in life paths cross for a reason. Today I lost a true true friend and the world lost a truly great man. He has left a hole which will never be filled.”

And Leamington Chamber of Trade also voiced their sadness at the loss.

A spokesman said: “Gerry was a stalwart voluntary member of the Leamington Chamber Exec team and contributed greatly to the town’s well being for many years.

“As well as being a past Chair of the Chamber, Gerry’s significant involvement will be sorely missed in the Safer Neighbourhoods Forum, Town Centre Strategy Forum and Town Centre Management Partnership.

“The Chamber Exec team would like to extend our sincere condolences to his family and friends at this sad time.”

Gerry also was well-known in the American football community, having played the sport from the early 1980s.

He coached Coventry Jets between 2005 and 2011, seeing them win many games and move up through the championships.

A spokesman for the team said: “We are absolutely devastated to hear of the passing of former Jets coach and Midlands football legend Gerry McManus.

“A much respected person across all of Britball and one who helped us to become a championship winning team.

“Our thoughts and condolences to everyone associated with a truly wonderful man.”

And Leamington personal trainer Richard Draper also expressed his condolences.

He said: “What a great man and a great loss to friends, family and football. So very sad.

“Many game days and nights spent with this gentle giant. Wonderful footballer and outstanding football coach. Will be missed so much.”

A social media page has been set up for those who wish to pay tribute to Gerry. Sear ‘Remembering Gerry McManus’ on Facebook to find out more.

Partnership Approach to Targeting Shoplifting

Partnership Approach to Targeting Shoplifting

Businesses in Leamington have joined forces with police to crack down on retail crime. Patrols by undercover and uniformed officers have been stepped up to tackle shoplifters within the town centre in an initiative spearheaded by BID Leamington and Warwickshire Police.

Four arrests were made within the first four days of the on-going operation which was launched following a spate of shoplifting over Christmas.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said it was the latest partnership initiative by the business-led organisation as part of its drive to increase the appeal of the town and improve trading performance.

She said: “Leamington is no different to any other town centre in terms of shoplifting.  However, over the Christmas period there were some significant issues which prompted us to work with retailers and Warwickshire Police to tackle the problem.

“By pro-actively addressing the problem together we have been able to deliver a really successful campaign that has included plain clothes officers monitoring areas of the town centre, increased police visibility and a mobile police unit.”

Operations involve uniformed and plain clothes police officers, police community support officers (PCSOs) and special constables carrying out random patrols in an attempt to catch prolific and amateur shoplifters.

PCSO Jamie Cortez, from Warwickshire Police, said: “A number of operations have been carried out and these will continue several times a month. The first four days resulted in four people being arrested and subsequently charged.

“Our message to shoplifters is that we are watching you and just because you may not see us in visible uniform, does not mean we are not out there.”

Marks and Spencer, which has outlets on The Parade and within Royal Priors Shopping Centre, are among the retailers supporting the initiative.

Ann Jeffrey, from Marks and Spencer, said: “Stock loss is a problem for businesses and this initiative over the festive period had a significant impact at a very important time of year.

“It is not only helping to reduce theft but also has a positive effect on the working environment for our staff who can find having to deal with shoplifters difficult as it can be quite disruptive and intimidating.”

Les Watkins is deputy manager of Royal Priors and chairman of the Leamington Retail Crime Initiative, which runs the radio scheme linked to the town centre’s CCTV to help retailers identify prolific and banned offenders.

He said: “The town centre’s retail radio network and CCTV operation are an essential part of how we all work together to fight against crime and we welcome these further initiatives from the police to support our retailers to specifically help combat shoplifting.”

PICTURE CAPTION: Pictured, from left to right, are PCSO Alex Young (Warwickshire Police), Stephanie Kerr, Les Watkins, Sarah Jones (operations manager at Royal Priors Shopping Centre and Regent Court), Luke Beardmore (food commercial manager at Marks and Spencer), PCSO Jamie Cortez and Natasha Grant (home commercial manager at Marks and Spencer).

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

‘Taste Leamington’ Online Hub Launches

‘Taste Leamington’ Online Hub Launches

An online hub for Royal Leamington Spa’s eateries has been launched to showcase the enviable line-up of fantastic restaurants and cafes in the town centre.

An A to Z list of more than 100 restaurants, cafes, bars, pubs and other eating establishments within the town centre, from Altoria Bar and Grill to Zou Bisou, is featured on the new Taste Leamington website.

The site, launched by BID Leamington, is designed to celebrate their offering and help visitors find their perfect place to eat, drink and party!

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington, said: “Leamington has an impressive mix of independent and national outlets that could rival many towns and cities and we were being contacted more frequently by people who had specific requests.

“Recognising that quite often choices were defined by more than flavour, the site is designed to celebrate what we have and help visitors find exactly what they are looking for.

“This is all part of working together to ensure customers receive the very best visitor experience, from the moment they consider visiting. We also hope they will benefit from the reviews and offers as well.”

The search menu identifies different venues with options ranging from venue type, party size or when you are visiting. Dietary requirement and desirable services can also be identified, such as delivery, online booking or dog friendly outlets.

You can also travel the world of flavours with cuisine choices that include Argentinian, Brazilian, Iranian, Japanese and Caribbean plus many more.
As well as a venue directory, the site features news and reviews, blogs and vlogs, events and experiences, and special offers.
Restaurant 23 and Morgan’s Bar in Hamilton Terrace is among the establishments featured on the site.

Executive chef Curtis Stewart said: “Leamington has a wonderful food offering for a town of its size and to have a digital platform that supports and promotes it is a great asset.

“I have been here six months and people do seem to associate Restaurant 23 as a special occasion venue when we have some fantastic offerings whether lunch, pre-theatre or Sunday brunch.

“It’s imperative that we broaden our horizon to a wider audience and make people aware that we are not just a special occasion venue and you can come here for a casual meal. Taste Leamington will help us to achieve that.”

The Royal Leamington Spa website run by BID Leamington, which links to the new Taste Leamington site, attracts nearly 30,000 visitors a month. Its social media channels have over 17,000 followers.

Stephanie added: “Over the years we have worked on building a strong audience for businesses in the town centre and anything that is featured on Taste Leamington will be amplified across our digital platforms.

“It’s all about us working together with businesses to extend their reach and help make their voices heard.”

The dedicated site builds upon the hugely popular Leamington Food and Drink Festival, organised by BID Leamington with the support of local businesses, which attracts around 25,000 visitors from all over the country.

Now in its tenth year, it is regarded as one of the best autumn food festivals in the country and returns to the Pump Room Gardens on Saturday, September 9 and Sunday, September 10.

A new addition to the town’s foodie calendar this year is the Fiesta of Flavour being run by Regent Court, in association with Taste Leamington, on Saturday, May 6 and Sunday, May 7 to showcase its range of eateries with masterclasses, tastings and competitions.

For more information visit www.tasteleamington.com

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

Chris White MP Welcomes Feedback

Chris White MP Welcomes Feedback

As news of the rates revaluation spread, businesses around the UK began to voice concerns. BID Leamington received the following letter from our local MP Chris White. 

Dear Stephanie,

As I am sure you are aware, proposals regarding business rates have been under close scrutiny in recent days.

I am writing to seek your views, and your member businesses, not least so I may better represent any concerns you may have.

The Government is raising the threshold for 100% business rate relief to £12,000, with a tapered rate to £15,000.  I am fully supportive of this measure as I recognise the importance of small and medium-sized enterprises and in particular, the independent sector, to Warwick and Leamington.  However, I am keen to understand any issues that may arise from the revaluation process.

I am closely monitoring the Government’s approach to business rates and am happy to raise any concerns that you may have with the relevant Ministers.  I would therefore be grateful if you could share this letter with your members and I would encourage them to write to me with their views.  I can be contacted at chris.white.mp@parliament.uk.

Finally, I would like to reaffirm my commitment to doing all I can to support local businesses in our area.  You are the reason that Warwick and Leamington has seen a 74% fall in unemployment since 2010 and I am always keen to work to strengthen our local economy further.

Yours sincerely,

Chris White MP
Member of Parliament for Warwick & Leamington
House of Commons, London SW1A 0AA
Tel: 020 7219 7201

After consulting a number of businesses we responded and our response can be seen in our blog. Please do not hesitate to contact us or Chris White MP directly with any further concerns.

Food Festival expands into Town Centre

Food Festival expands into Town Centre

One of the UK’s largest free food and drink festivals will cook up a storm with the addition of a new exhibition area at the event.

Foodie fever will spill into the town centre throughout the weekend of the two day event, with nine independent and national chain stores getting in on the action to provide a fringe-style event with Q and A sessions, food sampling, freebies and discounts.

Town centre retailers and restaurateurs will be serving up a treat in Regent Court as part of the annual Royal Leamington Spa Food and Drink Festival, which takes place in the Royal Pump Room Gardens on September 10 and 11.

Businesses involved include Turtle Bay, Gusto, Rosie’s Tea Room, LK Bennett, Gourmet Burger Kitchen, Prezzo, Lille Perle and Jaeger, with entertainment provided by jazz band, the Sheila Fawkes quintet, who will be performing live.

Warwickshire food blogger and journalist Ellen Manning, of Eat With Ellen, will also join the line up to host a live Q and A session with local chefs in Regent Court. Ellen regularly reviews eateries across the region and will be offering her best culinary tips and advice on both Saturday, 10, and Sunday, September 11.

Stephanie Kerr, executive director of BID Leamington which organises the festival, said: “After nine years, the Food and Drink Festival is seen as a highlight in the town’s event calendar and we know thousands of people visit from all over the country.

“With so many visitors in the town centre it is great to be able to show off our fabulous food and drink offer to the fullest, so we are very pleased to have the Regent Court businesses supporting our first ever ‘Fringe Food Fest’.

“This year we have over 50 town centre businesses involved – be it on stalls, demonstrating on the Live Kitchen, judging competitions or offering tasters, so there is going to be something for everyone.”

Visitors to this year’s festival can expect to sample exotic cuisines from more than 150 exhibitors, ranging from Italian breads and pastries to Indian street food, Zimbabwean preserves, alcoholic liqueurs and healthy smoothies.

A host of other activities will also take place in the Pump Room Gardens, which Stephanie said will make for an exciting programme of demonstrations, cooking and baking competitions, live music and entertainment.

She added: “As with every year, we will be hosting a number of popular activities in addition to the many delicious eateries exhibiting.

“Action over the course of the weekend will include the return of the Great Leamington Bake Off, which invites bakers to enter cakes and have them judged by the town’s best local chefs, as well as the Home Cook Of The Year competition.

“Organised by Leamington butcher’s Aubrey Allen, it’s been running since 2014 and will judge entrants on a three course cooking challenge, with the winner being crowned Leamington’s finest amateur chef.

“This year’s festival will also see children encouraged to get involved, with a kid’s cookery school hosted by Gusto Restaurant, Nandos, Pizza Express and Yo! Sushi.”

For more information on the fringe event in Regent Court and to find out what offers are available, visit http://www.leamingtonfoodfestival.co.uk/