After running and consulting for hundreds of independent businesses over the past two decades, we’re used to hearing the same complaints from high street retailers who just aren’t seeing the results they want from their stores, or Why local stakeholders don’t need to Be Enemies
After running and consulting for hundreds of independent businesses over the past two decades, we’re used to hearing the same complaints from high street retailers who just aren’t seeing the results they want from their stores, or are even considering closing up shop altogether.
Some feel so overworked it’s like their business is running them. Many don’t have a clear plan for the future of their business. And many of the high street businesses we work with have the same complaints about their local council – the rates are too high, the rents are too high, and the council does nothing to help them but plenty to get in their way.
This is always disappointing to hear because for high street businesses to survive and thrive in today’s increasingly competitive environment, local authorities need to be on board with active support for existing high street businesses and a vision for the future success of their high streets. In many areas this partnership is strong and the benefits to all shareholders for this is huge and can be seen. Also very often when retailers are leading with these negative comments we find this is sometimes a smokescreen for something deeper within the business. Many times we find areas of a business, which could be developed to improve the situation, but through fear, mistrust or pure apathy the business owner is not willing to look. It is sometimes easier to blame someone else rather than look closer at ones self!
When retailers see local authorities as aloof to their needs – or even worse, as an opposition force standing in the way of their success – the missed potential for both parties to benefit from a better working relationship is enormous.
That’s because when we set up a programme of support on behalf of an Authority or BID, we see how building the trust and working closer together can lead to greater results. This is something we’ve been doing successfully for the last five years; we quickly see greater trust and communication between local councils, Town Teams, BID teams and business owners. Depending on the strength of the partnerships between all stakeholders will be a guide to the strength of the outcomes of what we do.
These results include both current and future entrepreneurs feeling more confident about investing in their high street businesses, encouraging them to try innovative and exciting approaches to retail that help to make the high street more vital, inviting and popular with shoppers. Stronger communication between the stakeholders as the support builds greater trust in the local vision, and the will to implement it. Business owners are intelligent individuals who can see through something, which is just done to ‘tick a box’. A longer-term approach needs to be taken to see greater results, and give the area and the businesses within it time to develop and thrive.
With the right support from local authorities, independent retailers become the heart and soul of their local high streets, filling the void left by chain stores abandoning brick-and-mortar stores for internet-focused marketing with strong independent offerings that support the unique needs of their local communities.
In turn, a thriving high street becomes a tremendous asset for any local council, one, which encourages locals (and visitors!) to spend their money within the community and can inspire other improvements and investment in the local area. It also increases the desire to live and work within the local areas, thus improving not only the economy but also the property prices and the confidence for new entrants to the local business community.