On November 8th, Loqiva went to the BritishBIDs conference at Downing College, Cambridge.
For those who are unaware, BIDs (or Business Improvement Districts) play an incredibly important role in town centres all over the UK. Today, there are 63 BIDs in London alone and over 300 nationwide. The average BID raises nearly £500k of funding that’s got to go in to improving the town centre and its retail environment every year. It’s a £170m+ industry with over 12,000 UK businesses being represented by a local BID.
This year’s conference comprised of speakers including the Rt Hon Lord Adonis, David Downey of the International Downtown Association and Jackie Sadek of UK Regeneration.
The conference’s primary focus was, undoubtedly, the changing nature of the UK high street.
According to Jackie Sadek, more than 1500 independent retailers and 1772 chain stores closed in town centres in 2017. Some of the solutions she proposed are to return town centres to their historical roles; focus on independents not chains; deliver activity, not selling; create animated spaces; and deliver a more curated offer.
Meanwhile, Marie Hickey, Director of Retail, Leisure & Hospitality Research, from Savils asked the question “Is physical retail really dead and with it town centres?” Her research noted the experience-led consumption habits of millennials vs baby boomers, online retailers beginning to have a physical presence (‘Clicks to Bricks’), the importance of F&B in town centres, the rise of shorter term lets. In response to her question, Marie stated the future for town centres is positive if leaders are proactive – they need to respond to changing consumer trends, work with stakeholders to align future outcomes, and deliver on strategies to make connected shopping and pop-ups more viable.
What’s clear is that BIDs must consider digital as a priority for future town centres. Not only can digital provide a means to drive footfall by promoting culture and heritage, it can help to create a connected marketplace for physical businesses (like pop-ups) to plug in to.
Public wifi and basic loyalty apps can only go so far. A more holistic approach is needed and Loqiva can help BIDs to deliver this.