Thursday, October 31, 2013

News: Rotherham retail centres work together

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An independent study in 2010 identified Rotherham town centre as having the highest amount of retail competition in the UK. Now it works collaboratively with the co-owners of the developments that provide that competition, British Land.

Owned by Hercules Unit Trust, Parkgate Shopping in Rotherham, five minutes from the town centre, is one of the largest retail parks in the UK, home to over 40 shops and attracting around seven million visitors a year. British Land owns 41.2% of Hercules Unit Trust.

Less that 15 minutes from Rotherham town centre, Meadowhall provides 1.5 million sq ft of high quality retail and leisure space on the outskirts of Sheffield and attracts over 25 million visitors per year. It is owned in a joint venture between British Land and Norges Bank Investment Management.

British Land made a £130,000 contribution to Rotherham's ambitious business development programme that helped Rotherham Borough Council to secure an additional £100,000 from the Government's Portas Pilot scheme. This was followed up with £268,000 awarded as part of the government's High Street Renewal Award.

The funding from British Land came forward after planning permission was refused for a new Frankie & Benny's restaurant at Parkgate.

The funding has been put to good use, supporting local, independent retailers and reducing the number of vacant units. It is all part of the plan to create an offer that helps differentiate the town centre from that of their nearest competitors.

The £100,000 business development grant fund has already supported the renovation of CafĂ© Rendezvous, the expansion of the Whistle Stop Sweet Shop (pictured) to include a new temperance bar, and the renovation of Stems florists.

Around £12,000 has gone into mystery shopper reviews, improvement grants and World Host customer service training involving over 170 businesses, highlighting examples of "platinum service" and providing training opportunities to improve customer service standards.

£2,500 has been used on training almost 60 traders in visual merchandising, gift wrapping, media and marketing to ensure that Rotherham retailers offer an experience which attracts shoppers and helps retailers collectively spread the Shop Local message.

£15,000 has been used for Rotherham's successful pop up shop scheme, the first of which has given new business Vintage Dolls the chance to test its business ideas on flexible terms, with a queue of retailers now awaiting the next pop up opportunities.

£25,000 has also been spent on the town's high profile Shop Local campaign, finding innovative ways to promote the quality, differentiated shopping offer, alongside advertising discounts and other incentives in over 100 shops and restaurants participating in the Shop Local loyalty card scheme.

The next phase of High Street renewal in Rotherham is already being planned.

Matthew Reed, asset manager at British Land, said: "We believe town centre and out-of-town retail destinations can work together for the greater good of an area - providing local people with complementary retail offers, doing joint marketing, hosting events to promote local traders, supporting apprenticeships and training - and more.

"With footfall up and new shops opening all the time, Rotherham town centre is a great example of how the high street can work well alongside other retail destinations and thrive in an "omnichannel" era. We hope to work more closely with more town centre teams for the benefit of all."

Paul Woodcock, director of Planning & Regeneration at Rotherham Council, added: "The partnership with British Land has provided a real boost to the town; it's clear that there is a role for both the edge-of-town retail park and the historic town centre - both offering complementary retail and leisure alternatives."

"Rotherham town centre has bucked national trends and continues to flourish thanks to the focus on our specialist independent offer. The support from British Land has allowed us to support those new-start businesses, help retailers to grow and promote our town centre to a wider audience, and we look forward to working on joint projects going forward."

Rotherham town centre website
Parkgate Shopping website

Images: British Land

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