Monday, October 28, 2013

News: Next phase of High Street renewal in Rotherham

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The next phase of High Street renewal in Rotherham town centre is set to include a dedicated space for enterprising retailers to "test-trade" their products.

The efforts of the council and town team to rejuvenate the town centre have been highlighted by High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis in a national report and at an event to share ideas about retaining and developing local businesses and making sure High Streets remain active and exciting.

The report by the Association of Town Centre Management (ATCM) highlights what has been done in Rotherham with the £268,000 that was recently awarded as part of the government's High Street Renewal Award. Last year Rotherham was also one of 27 areas to be named as a "Portas Pilot" securing £100,000 of government funding to support the high street.

The report highlights the Business Vitality Grants Scheme where rental and capital fitout grants have been offered to 24 new businesses, reducing the number of vacant units and increasing the range of independent shops.

Also highlighted is the successful Pop-Up shop scheme; the grants for existing retailers to help with business development; initiatives aimed at improving levels of customer service; the Shop Local discount card scheme; Pop-Up High Street events that take the town centre retailers to different locations; physical improvements to empty shops and the Gallery Town open air art gallery.

High Streets Minister Brandon Lewis said: "The report shows that when local civic and business leaders take action they can change the fortunes of their high street. Town teams are fizzing with ideas on how to make high streets thrive from free parking and pop up shops, to street café grants and attractions that encourage footfall.

"The results are not only having an immediate impact in reviving the fortunes of their high streets but they are laying the foundations for sustainable prosperity over the long term. For example, Rotherham's efforts have seen 44 new shops open, reducing the boarded up shops, increasing footfall and signing up 100 shops to their local loyalty card scheme. Most importantly of all, shopper satisfaction has soared."

The next steps for Rotherham include the continuation of the business support programme. This includes expanding the range of opportunities at entry level, essentially creating a "supply chain" of new businesses from incubation through to leasing their own unit.

Organisations such as Rotherham Youth Enterprise, local colleges and The Source Retail Academy in Rotherham will work with the council to provide the relevant support and resources at the appropriate level. Opportunities will exist for talented students looking to sell their merchandise for the first time and for experienced innovative business people looking to evolve and expand their market in Rotherham.

One key project is a shared retail space model which will enable new retailers "test trading" space, for up to a year. Set to be located in a historic building on the High Street, the centre will host a minimum of 20 exhibitors at any one time and benefit from a dedicated retail manager.

The building will also offer two stand alone Pop-Up shops allowing retailers the flexibility to expand into their own unit adjacent to their current location and bridge the gap between the shared retail space and a permanent fixed term lease on their own premises.

Rotherham town centre website

Images: Tom Austen

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