The future success of the city centre will substantially rely on small independent retailers that collectively present a distinct destination offer. Building on existing projects and initiatives being delivered by NPDC, BARA and the West End Precinct, it is proposed that a retail and business improvement programme or hub be developed to potentially include:
A ‘pop-up enterprise village’ established in vacant retail space where new businesses are encouraged to ‘test trade’ for up to six months. With comprehensive retail/hospitality advice and support provided by NPDC, WITT and BARA, viable business would then be assisted to ‘spin out’ into available retail space within the core. The pop-up enterprise village could take many forms but one opportunity would be a ‘meanwhile’ container village (converted shipping containers) on available land, or retrofit existing vacant shops.
With ongoing contraction in the retail sector, there will be times when prominent ground floor spaces are vacant to the potential detriment of the overall street scene. A strategy and ‘kit of parts’ should be developed allowing stakeholders to work with building owners to ensure the negative impacts are minimised. This means going beyond dressing up shop fronts with decals or introducing static displays to occupying the spaces with pop ups, often rotational, activities be it an art exhibit, a test trade shop and play opportunities. The vacant shop becomes an instant piece of social infrastructure which helps enliven the street and increase its desirability as a place to invest. Empty shops could also be used to support pop-up enterprise villages.
Support should be provided for independent stores to improve their online and social media presence through a centralised ‘Shop Local’ portal with link to business specific websites. This online portal could be linked to a loyalty programme with the availability of apps aimed at allowing consumers to collect and redeem loyalty stamps, receive and spend digital gift vouchers and be sent tailored promotions from their favourite independent shops. Training on related matters such as web-design and cyber security could be provided through the hub with significant potential to tap into expertise at WITT.
Recent co-ordination of the events programme has ensured there is a rich range of activities to draw people into The Core throughout the year, but it needs to be elevated from a marketing perspective. The West End Precinct provides a model for marketing the wider core area as a destination.
NPDC and other institutions should commit to intentionally purchasing of goods and/or services that result in positive support for city centre businesses that have come through the Enterprise Village and/or are otherwise committed to supporting opportunities for local people.
NPDC and its partners should actively seek to attract a new anchor activity into The Core as a means of diversifying the employment base and driving additional footfall that will benefit businesses.
One such anchor activity is already emerging around low-emission energy with the recent establishment of Ara Ake. Opportunities to grow this sector should be pursued. Another opportunity relates to further education with for example, the potential for WITT to establish a city centre campus.
NPDC’s role could include releasing land it controls within the Core for the establishment of an anchor. Anchor activities may create the need for residential accommodation that should be directed towards the Eastern Neighbourhood.
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Page last updated: 10:23AM Thu 09 December 2021