Friday, March 16, 2018

News: Incentives to attract businesses to Rotherham town centre

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As the regeneration proposals in the masterplan progress, Council bosses are considering offering new incentives to support businesses through difficult trading conditions in Rotherham town centre.

Rothbiz reported two weeks ago that footfall in Rotherham town centre continues to decline. For the period between October to December 2017, which includes the key festive trading season, aggregate pedestrian footfall in the town centre was recorded by the Council at 4,526,577. This is an 17.58% decrease on the same quarter in the previous year. 5,492,033 was recorded for the Christmas trading period between October and December 2016.

The closure of Primark in November 2017 has had a big impact. Footfall for High Street in Dec 2017 has shown a decrease of 41% compared to Nov 2016.

Damien Wilson, Strategic Director for Regeneration and Environment at Rotherham Council, said: "We are going through a long term regeneration process but there are short term issues which we do need to address. There are a suite of proposals being pulled together linked to new types of markets and we are also looking at attracting new retailers into the town. We are looking at ways we can do that either through properties that we own or indeed working on, and there's nothing agreed yet, but proposals to incentivise new shop traders to move into the town.

"Obviously we have voids, we are aware of that. What we need to start looking at is the net gain vs the net loss because we are still attracting new shops into the town centre but we are losing some at the same time.

"We still manage to attract new shops in town - we've had Costa open up and Warhammer open up - what we need to do is to try and measure how many more we are bringing in than losing but you can't ignore that trading conditions in the town centre are difficult."

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23% of floor space in the town centre area was classed as vacant at the end of 2017.

Warhammer has moved to the High Street from the Old Town Hall and the Lumiere photography and art gallery has recently opened, also on the High Street. Young entrepreneur of the year, Emily Dawson from the Holy Ghost Tattoo Collective, has opened a second studio in the Old Town Hall.

Conversely, La Bella Lingerie is closing its High Street shop later this month.

Shop-owner, Karen Carr, said: "It's been a hard decision to make but in difficult economic times we have been struggling to manage the business. Sales and profit levels have decreased and in such a scenario we cannot continue to operate."

As reported by Rothbiz, the former Primark store has been given a guide rent of offers in excess of £200,000 per annum exclusive.

Wilson added: "There is too much floorspace in the town centre, we have to be open and honest about that. The town centre has changed dramatically in the last 20 years and the needs and demands for retail units now are different to they were then. If you look at some of the bigger floorspaces around town, they'll probably be empty for quite a long time. It's going to be difficult to attract the big retailers in.

"What we need to try and do is focus on bringing new businesses in, like we have done on the High Street successfully, maintain that and reduce the number of businesses that are struggling that actually end up closing.

"We recognise that until we get some of the bigger projects delivered we have to work to sustain what we've got now so that footfall doesn't reduce dramatically."

The first major projects include the £12m university campus taking shape on Doncaster Gate and progress is being made on Forge Island with the Council closing in on a development partner.

Wilson added: "Footfall is the driver for retail success and footfall is going down. There are different ways you can address footfall. The obvious one is to improve the offer within the town centre, that's the longer term ambition. It's about increasing the amount of attractions that will increase the number of people that will come into the town. Whether that's with what we are trying to do on Forge Island or through the private sector like the working with the football club.

"Separately, it is about bringing more people into the town centre, not just coming in to shop, but to come in to live. Another part of that key strategy is housing in the town centre.

"But we will continue to lose shops until the trading conditions overall improve. We've got the pressures of Meadowhall, we've got the pressures of Parkgate and we can't ignore that that is a negative impact on the town centre. There is a plan in place to try and address that."

Rotherham markets could be in line for a long-awaited revamp, as outlined in the masterplan. In the meantime, footfall is falling in the markets and there is an increase in empty units. The authority has agreed that charges for units in the complex are not to increase.

The Council is also looking at initiatives to boost the footfall in the market, and town centre, by introducing new markets, such as the crafter's market, and trials of street markets on Saturdays and car boot sales on Sundays. Incentives for new traders are also set to be extended.

Other initiatives to support the town centre include proposals for free Wi-Fi, new parking offers and the introduction of a Public Space Protection Order (PSPO).

Images: Fernie Greaves / RMBC / WYG

1 comments:

uzma chowdhary March 18, 2018 at 9:41 PM  

Council offices need to go back to the centre near the old library site and we need to get a library in the town centre. it will certainly help students at the colleges and new Rotherham University.Moving the council offices and main library was the most stupid thing the council has ever done..that's what caused the real decrease to town centre visitors.

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