The arrival and growth of the British BID (Business Improvement District) has signalled a new, more collaborative approach to retailing and provides sub regional shopping centres in particular with the improved ability to integrate into the wider retail community. Unlike large destination retail schemes, sub regional centres often lack the significant marketing and advertising budgets which go a long way to support growth in footfall and sales. For this reason, and many others which we shall explore in this article, BID’s represent a way for community led schemes to action a growth strategy which is targeted to the local demographic at minimal cost.
British BID’s have been a feature of UK retail for the last 10 years. They are defined as a ‘business led body formed to improve the commercial performance of a given area’ and are voted for and funded by businesses in the area. Across the UK there are now 183 active BID’s, of these, 147 are town centres with others being made up of smaller ‘pockets’ of retailers. BID’s are highly flexible in their nature; running on a 5 year life span, they can be shaped to apply to a large or small area. Projects, marketing campaigns and events are tailored to the local demographic and thus integrate retailers with the local community to better effect. For this reason it is important that the shopping centre industry is active in partaking in BID initiatives. Landlords and managing agents will often struggle to integrate their sub regional schemes into the community with more generic marketing campaigns. Involvement in BID’s makes the scheme directly relevant to the demographic which can only be a good thing.
Outside of this, there are other reasons why the shopping centre industry would benefit from BID involvement. 5 years ago the competition between the UK high street and shopping centres was on-going, the industry has now evolved to learn that working with local retail to encourage a healthy economy is more beneficial than competing with each other for custom. BID’s provide the perfect vehicle for a successful working relationship to flourish ensuring the high street and shopping centre in collaboration stand the best chance of competing with online retail.
Positive outcomes are also found in the form of the 5 year plan which a BID is based on. Involvement of the shopping centre in this plan guarantees inclusion and future funding providing a structured plan for sales growth. While this of course cannot be guaranteed, it allows the centre manager to plan ahead with the support of a wider retail community. It is worth noting that a persistent attitude is key to BID success. Major head way is often not achieved until the 2nd 5 year term however, the rewards speak for themselves. BID districts in Nottingham and Newcastle for example now raise between £1million and £2million in funding for community events which have funded marketing campaigns, local food markets, free shuttle bus services and fashion shows as well as environmental initiatives and recycling campaigns. It therefore goes without saying that the local shopping centre will inevitably benefit from the increased footfall within town centres that such initiatives and events bring.
BID’s are therefore something which centre management, landlords and managing agents should embrace as a medium to actively integrate shopping centres into the wider retailing community and encourage interaction with key external stakeholders. By working together, town centres, BID’s and shopping centres can provide a customer experience which is targeted to the local demographic, thus giving UK retail a more than fighting chance against online retail.