Winchester City Council backs independent retailers
Winchester city centre has ridden the economic storms of recent years, with retailers queuing up for premises and vacancy rates around half the national average. However, the City Council is taking steps to ensure that the independent shops which make Winchester so distinctive are able to thrive and survive, alongside the multiples and the markets.
Following discussions with retailers who have premises away from the High Street, Cllr Rob Humby – the Council’s Portfolio Holder for Economic Development – has decided to commission a ‘health-check’ for the city’s independent shops.
Ensuring that retail performance in secondary shopping streets reflects the vibrancy of the High Street is not a concern that is unique to Winchester. However, as a Council committed to supporting small businesses, Winchester City Council is keen to assess current performance and consider practical, low-cost ways in which it can work with the retailers and the Business Improvement District to help the traders realise their full potential.
The Council is currently inviting bids from organisations and individuals qualified to carry out the health-check.
Cllr Humby, who has pledged to put business at the heart of the Council’s work, said:
These are challenging times for small retailers across the entire country. Although the overall retail picture in Winchester is rosy, there are still winners and losers. There are all kinds of reasons for this, including a natural business life cycle. But by working collaboratively, we can definitely make the best of what should be a great trading environment for all our businesses.
Eloise Appleby, Assistant Director for Economy and Communities, added:
The City Council has already introduced a year-round programme of very successful street markets to increase footfall, building on the success of the established farmers’ markets. A wide range of initiatives, from dedicated marketing campaigns and street parties to pedestrian signage and even – in the case of Parchment Street – new public art have all played their part in helping to ensure that the town’s smaller shopping streets continue to thrive. However, we are keen to respond to business feedback, and believe that there is probably more that should be done to ensure the city remains a retail destination of choice.
The review covers all of the city’s central shopping streets outside the High Street, and seeks to derive ideas which could also be applied to the towns and villages elsewhere in the Winchester District, although the Council operates other programmes designed to support these businesses. A number of retailers will sit on the evaluation panel which selects the organisation or individual picked to carry out the work, and will be part of the project steering group.
Bids are invited from across the private, public and voluntary sectors. The deadline is noon on Wednesday 23 October 2013, and further information about the commission can be found at http://tinyurl.com/pncu7ov