Tuesday 8th September 2015

This is Part 5 of an ongoing series, to read the previous parts click here: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.


Part 5 of the Altrincham BID v RID Debate – Final Score

Today, we look at the final part of the BID process – Experience Altrincham. If you recall, we were dissecting the policies to work out how many  favour retail and leisure and ignore all the other businesses and industries in the area. The current score is  12   policies  benefit retail and leisure  only and just  5  benefit almost all businesses. A reminder that the levy is mandatory and does not discriminate on industry as opposed to the policies it pays for. Experience Altrincham – Creating a strong consumer identity. Promoting retail and leisure. “Promoting Retail and Leisure”. Not my words, but the words of Top Gear Magazine. Sorry couldn’t resist and one that all Partridge fans will recognise.  I can only take this in a jovial manner as the BID has now got to a stage where it is blasé about its Retail and Leisure bias. It should be noted that since I have posted about the blogs, 4 members of the BID board have been in contact with me asking to either meet or chat. That is great progress and good to get dialogue open. They are keen to point out that there is more thinking behind the policies and that fundamentally my views are “welcomed” but flawed – Something which is totally understandable. How can my views be anything other than flawed since I’ve had only one letter about this whole process stating my levy? No dialogue prior to that at all. I am not sure whether that I’m to blame for having flawed views or whether the BID is flawed for not making sure that my views aren’t laser focused and accurate? 1) Develop and stylish brand for Altrincham, giving it identity. Who decides what is stylish or not? That’s a very subjective term. My business will not benefit from this as it’s not geographically focused. What set of messages go out about Altrincham where a brand is required? – Are we talking about stationery and social? Are we talking about media buying and digital? Where is this brand going to be represented, why and what is the expected ROI of doing so? What is the background and qualifications of the experts that are testing this with our money? Is it a case of styling buildings and public areas such as the Dunham red signs? More information is required here but I’m sure that if voted in, I will end up paying for something with zero primary benefit here. I would try and guess this is largely going be around being a “forward thinking modern market town with focus on local and independence” or something to that effect. How is the ROI on this being tracked? In my humble opinion, Altrincham’s identity is defined by its people, its skillset and its demographic customer base – not what we try to force over it. Let’s not try to put a square peg in a round hole as that’s how you get empty units. There is a huge question around why there are so many empty units and people (including me) point to parking and rates. However, it’s worth reiterating that there are some fantastically successful retail and leisure companies in Altrincham. Companies who pay the same level of rates and operate in the same area with the same parking restrictions. How have they survived and flourished? It would be great to find out. Could the Market Hall do a seminar? Now  that   would be a good BID-funded project. I would suggest that the strong companies use a mixture of the following:

  • Analysis of Consumer demographics in Altrincham and surrounding areas (or designated target geo)
  • Timely and relevant contact with its potential customer base via a medium that customer base choose to be contacted with
  • Product which is relevant to surrounding demographic
  • Skill of marketing product/service – SEO, PPC, Direct, PR, Social, etc
  • Customer service
  • Good management decisions

Those businesses have a fantastic identity which clearly resonates with the area – hence their success. Altrincham is full of fantastic businesses and skilful people. A B2B business like mine is a bit like a tree in a forest. If the BID group can’t hear it, does it fall over? Yes, yes it really falls and topples other trees as it goes down. If a retail business closes, you can physically see it and of course the BID group and levy is here to make it easier. No one from the BID group is looking after my tree so I have to rely on the bullet points above to survive, which is the norm. Being harsh, you could argue that the good businesses will flourish with a BID or without.  It seems that the BID allows the tolerance threshold for rejection and failure to be lower which is a good thing. It is good that the Market House proves that it’s not just cash for gold, bookies and charity shops that can thrive here. I don’t want a logo or branding or positions for Altrincham’s identity. I want it to be one of  shared success, inspirational marketing and ideas, entrepreneurial spirit and outstanding leisure facilities. An Altrincham that is where ALL business want to be. BID 5 v RID 13   2) Create reasons to visit via marketed events. We all love the events that go on in Altrincham such as the Food Festival. I think they are fantastic BUT I think they are fantastic from a consumer point of view. My business thinks zero of them as there are no primary benefits to me unless you own retail or leisure within the epicentre of the event. However, it must be said that some of the events are great. I would welcome more but only to fill my weekends, nothing more. BID 6 v RID 14   3 & 4) Develop a robust marketing strategy including E-Newsletters, events calendar, strong social media presence, signage and planting. All good things if you are in retail, events or social media. I wish my business was. That is of course unless the E-Newsletters, signage and planting are going to have a direct marketing section and be targeted at B2B? Hmm, doubtful. BID 6 v RID 16   5) Building a website and online business directory. I covered this in Part 2 of the blog. I’m confident this will be a waste of money. No one uses directories anymore and they have little SEO benefit. Maybe 5-8 years ago but not now. A bad idea. Whether the website is a good idea depends on the content or not. Looking at the personas, I can’t see many people using it. I don’t hear a general clamour for Altrincham to have its own website. Possibly useful for outside visitors so I’m open minded on that side. That would stand to benefit retail rather than B2B. BID 6 v RID 17  

Summary: Final Score: BID 6 v RID 17

 It’s a RID. A landslide at that. Of course, the more political can argue secondary benefits to businesses in the area by improving the central retail belt but that is getting to butterfly effect stuff. Are there many B2B businesses who want secondary  benefits unless they can pay a secondary levy? ….we all know the answer to that. The current BID is all about Retail and Leisure and if you’re neither of those industries then you don’t really exist. Where the dark matter does exist is the levy charge and having to contribute to fund the RID. Remember that I am very much PRO a BID and want to capitalise on some of the good work that is going on in Altrincham. There’s no doubt there is a better buzz about the place and it will be interesting to see how the Poynton-style pedestrianisation will help further. Consumers will be rejoicing at the BID. They get improved leisure and retail facilities and are set to benefit. Retail and Leisure will be rejoicing at the consumers rejoicing and   will  benefit. It would be nice if ALL B2B companies were rejoicing at the retail companies rejoicing. My company will be like the miserable wallflower with a pint watching on. Ask me to dance BID group! – I’ve paid the same entrance fee as the rest. The final blogs in the series will focus on the BID Steering Board – some transparency on representation and also a culmination of any positive ideas that we can all bring to the table to make sure that the BID is balanced and can benefit as many business in the area as possible. There’s a meeting on the 21st September at Altrincham Town Hall to discuss the RID. I would urge as many business owners and residents as possible to get involved with the process and debate – we all want Altrincham to fly!  

  This is Part 5 of an ongoing series, to read the previous parts click here: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4.

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