Retail healthcheck to boost Winchester’s independent shops

Press Release: 19/11/2013

Shopping graph

At a time of year when many people are heading for their local surgery to get a flu jab, Winchester’s independent retailers are also about to have a check-up.

Following a competitive tendering process, the City Council has commissioned specialists from The Retail Group to assess the performance and potential of Winchester’s secondary shopping streets.

The Retail Group – who have carried out similar studies across the country – will be inviting businesses to provide them with data, opinions and suggestions that could boost trade throughout the year. They will also be asking shoppers to reflect on their experience of Winchester, looking closely at footfall patterns across the central shopping area and comparing performance with other similar destinations.

At the end of it all, they will be producing an action plan, to be shared jointly by the retailers, the Council and the Business Improvement District, designed to help the businesses make the very most of being based in a popular destination like Winchester.

Cllr Rob Humby, the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, commented:

The independent shops are one of the reasons why people love visiting Winchester. Over the years, we have done a great deal to support the secondary shopping streets, where many of our finest shops and eateries are based. We commissioned the ‘Kite Flyer’ archway to draw attention to Parchment Street and worked with Hampshire County Council to repave The Square. We have also put up new pedestrian signs, produced shopping leaflets, created web pages and run PR campaigns. There have been street parties, retail trails and all manner of other activities to encourage visitors to head off the beaten track and discover the joys of the more hidden quarters of the city. The Business Improvement District team have also worked hard to support these areas.

This healthcheck will give us some solid evidence about how well our independents are doing at this difficult time, and provide some pragmatic and low-cost ideas about what we might all do better together in future.

The findings will also help to underpin work to support the vibrancy of the towns and villages around the district being led by the Council's Market Towns Development Officer.

The panel which appointed The Retail Group included representatives of Pavilion in The Square; Warrens in Upper High Street; P&G Wells in College Street and Toscanaccio’s in Parchment Street. Crispin Drummond of P&G Wells commented:

I have enjoyed being part of this process, and am impressed at the credentials and approach of The Retail Group. Shopping today is all about the experience, and I believe that the independents across Winchester offer an excellent combination of high-quality merchandise, backed by knowledgeable service and often in really interesting buildings. It’s quite possible that we are so busy doing the ‘day job’ that we don’t make the most of what we have to offer, so I am looking forward to hearing what the consultants have to say.

Representatives of The Retail Group will be visiting as many independent businesses in the Business Improvement District as they can over the coming weeks. They are keen to talk to staff or managers of any business which sells to customers ‘off the street’, from boutiques to estate agents, and from hairdressers to eateries. They also hope that as many as possible will complete the short questionnaire that will be distributed.

Retailers can contact Paul Frater or Mike Evans on 0844 209 8480 or for further information.