Monday, March 14, 2016

News: Diverse business mix in Rotherham town centre

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Rotherham town centre has won its third national award in recent months - this time recognised for its diverse mix of independent shops.

Rotherham was named both category winner and overall winner in the Association of Town and City Management's (ACTM) annual awards held in London last week. ACTM is the membership organisation that provides an influential voice for the town and city management community.

The award is the third the town centre has received in recent months, recognising the continuing efforts to revitalise the town. In December, the High Street beat off strong competition to win the Great British High Street competition (Town Centre category) and in January Rotherham's Tuesday market was named Best Large Outdoor Market award in the National Association of Borough Market Authorities (NABMA) awards.

ATCM judges said they were impressed with the range of opportunities provided to entrepreneurs and the cluster of independent businesses that have helped revitalise the town's retail offer.

Shanaaz Carroll, interim CEO of the ATCM, said: "The ATCM National Awards are instrumental in providing recognition for the valuable programmes and projects that are being delivered by dedicated professionals to improve our high streets and town and city centres. The overall standard of the entries this year was really high and has once again highlighted the quality and variety of projects that are being undertaken. To win an ATCM National Award is a great achievement and recognition for the hard work, dedication and creativity that each person and each partnership has put in."

As well as coming first in the Diversifying the Business Mix category, ahead of Coleraine and Dunloghaire, Rotherham was also named overall winner of six categories, beating off stiff competition from Derby, Camden and Walsall who were winners in their own categories.

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Rotherham town centre was named as a Portas Pilot by the Government in 2012 and compiled a pot of £350,000 to support the council and its town team partners in realising its vision to create a vibrant and thriving town centre with a different retail offer by fostering new, independent businesses.

The business vitality scheme aimed at encouraging new independent retailers to open up outlets in Rotherham town centre has been running since 2008. The scheme has provided discretionary financial assistance in the form of rental contributions, business planning, business advice, and contributions to shop front grants, fit out costs and street furniture.

More than 11 new businesses have opened and are continuing to trade successfully in the town centre thanks to assistance and support via the Vitality Grants Scheme whilst eight town centre retailers have benefited from the Business Development Grants scheme within the last four years which helps existing businesses to grow and enhance the shopping offer.

On the revamped High Street, sixty-six makers, artists and crafters have so far been supported at the Makers Emporium since it opened in April 2014, helping them to test-trade, learn the art of retailing and grow their business.

Added to the mix are four pop-up shops which offer 12-month supported trading, rental increments and bespoke business advice. The pop-up shop scheme in Rotherham is being funded jointly by the Association of British Bookmakers and the Portas Pilot Initiative.

19-year-old entrepreneur Katie Cheetham owns the Baby Blossom Boutique pop-up shop, which opened in the Imperial Buildings in September 2015.

Katie (pictured, second from the right) said: "There would be no way I could have set up my shop if it wasn't for the Rotherham Council's Pop-up Shop scheme. I've had continued support from both them and Rotherham Youth Enterprise from the beginning in establishing my business and I am very proud that I can contribute to the unique and independent shopping offer in Rotherham Town Centre."

The latest unique addition is the opening of the pioneering children's literacy centre and unique retail store, Grimm & Co.

As the retail sector continues to change, the latest draft masterplan includes proposals to provide complementary "making and trading" spaces - "fostering entrepreneurial spirit, by accommodating small scale manufacturing space for start-up enterprises."

Rotherham Town Centre website

Images: RMBC

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