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Wednesday 9th September 2015

This is Part 6   of an ongoing series, to read the previous parts click here: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.


The BID Steering Group and Introduction to #MakeAltrinchamFly

Good news readers! We have the details of the BID Steering Group. The BID group website is live so the information is filtering through which is great. steering I can see the thinking here. At first glance it looks like an even split between sectors. Two here, one there, etc. However, how does this fit in with detail posted in Part 2 where we actually looked at the make-up of the businesses within the proposed and controversial BID area? Overlaying that onto the group – is it representative then? There is a sentence that says “The Board make-up will be representative of the town centre“. This is the town centre that makes up the retail-heavy BID area, consisting of much of the Stamford Quarter and neighbouring retail-heavy roads. According to the BID plan, roads such as Market Street and Kingsway are not in the town centre. If it was the town centre as many of my blog readers would recognise, then the board is failing to be representative. The above can be grouped as below:

  • B2B – 2
  • B2C – 8
  • Public Sector – 2

So the B2C Sectors made up of Retail, Food and Drink and Leisure are 4 x more prominent than B2B. On that basis, we would expect to see 4 x more Retail, Food and Leisure businesses in the area than B2B. It stands to reason that B2C board members may be more interested in footfall improvements as primary benefit to Altrincham than, say, B2B board members. Below is a breakdown of the proposed BID area and the businesses that inhabit it. This was first published in Part 2 so apologies for the repeat. As we can see in the retail-biased BID Area, there are not 4 x Retail, Food and Leisure businesses than B2B industries (legal, accounting, finance, marketing, manufacturing – supply to wholesale usually, business services). I call these industries “Dark Matter”. Not visible with shop frontage but a massively important factor to the economy. I can see the logic that no one has an unequal share, Office has the same board members as Independent Retail but will Food and Drink benefit from the same things as Retail and Leisure – e.g. footfall, access and parking? – that makes some sense. Ergo, it could be argued that the B2B v B2C groupings make more sense. Bear in mind that the BID boundaries specifically cut out central roads and buildings in the centre of Altrincham such as Station House, offices on Market Street, offices behind WH Smiths, etc. I think that many would argue that they should be included as they are <20 seconds away from George Street. Then the number of B2B Companies would significantly outnumber the B2C Companies in the area. If you were cynical, then it’s not beyond the realms of possibility to suggest that they were deliberately cut out? Personally, I don’t think they were. I imagine there are issues with business rates and the levy – some of them in services offices are included in the rent but the VOA, Council and Bruntwood, etc could have sorted that out with dialogue. I have also had numerous people point out to me on social media the role of the Stamford Quarter on this board. Would they not want to promote policies that benefit their properties and direct area? Do they own the car parks that more footfall in Altrincham would use? Would it not make it easier to rent them out? Again, possibly cynical views but not my own. They were pointed out to me and I’m just curating. Without knowing too much about Stamford Quarter (Lunar Holdings, Apollo Management) as a company, I would have to say that these views are at least interesting and worth more transparency from the BID board. I think it’s also fair to say that SQ should have a say considering their involvement in the area – it might be wrong to exclude them. That said though, any improvements to Retail, George Street, etc will directly increase the value of their property portfolio. What’s worth mentioning here are the great looking plans for a revitalised SQ and Clarendon House that I imagine are privately funded by Lunar? The quicker they get going the better. I think there is real momentum in Altrincham at the moment – one which a great and balanced BID can capitalise on. From a previous post:

In terms of the above boundaries, here’s an example of the make-up of those businesses in terms of available data. Note: it is only a snapshot. Circa 100 are retail and leisure and what lives on AltrinchamForward.com (highlighted in yellow) from c250. The rest are dark matter. On that basis, I would expect the current BID plan to reflect this. So that’s Retail and Leisure making approx. 40% of the business. The below data is not exhaustive, it misses out most self-employed entities and about 40% of business due to the limitations of business data BUT it is reflective of the types of business in that area and the percentage split of industry. (CLICK IMAGE TO ENLARGE) Employee-numbers If we were to include the roads just outside the BID boundary (see below) – ergo, include more of the traditional areas where the office-based industries sit (and are still very much in Altrincham) then the results show that Retail and Leisure make up 160 of 524 business. That’s Retail and Leisure making up approximately 30% of Altrincham business. If anyone would like me to email them a breakdown of those businesses, I would be delighted to.

So there are two points here about the BID board:

Is it representative of the BID Area?

Sort of. You would expect a B2C bias as they have chosen a B2C area. We cannot forget that. The area is crucial to everything that happens after that so it’s skewed from stage 1. Even then though, it’s still not totally representative. According to the BID Group (8 x B2C Votes, 2 x B2B votes) there should be 4 x as many B2C companies as B2B. That means of the 247 in the table, there should be c160 Retail and Leisure, c40 B2B and c40 Public Sector. The public sector is close to being right. The B2B is under represented on the board in my opinion by possibly 1 to 2 people. I suppose this is where it all gets a little political and the types of election that you use – first past the post etc. The great thing about this is these additional B2B spaces on the board could really bring massive benefit. In my humble opinion, what the BID needs is marketing support – the battle for online which is just as important as the centre. Retail and Leisure is not JUST about footfall. Think what Mary Portas would do – work on the B2B aspect, work on home delivery, work on other forms of revenue. She would do this, of course, in addition to sorting out the product, display, pricing, service and general retail or leisure principles. Those are the gimmes to make you a survivable business – the value-adds are the flair that separate you from competition.

Representative of the “Town Centre”?

Not in my opinion. There are many, many more B2B businesses a stone’s throw away.

Summary

I’m really pleased that we can now see the board on the BID website. Slowly but surely, the information is being found and disseminated. There are some cracking people on that board but I don’t want this opportunity to be missed. Let’s get the debate open. The BID group is also visiting all companies in the BID area before the vote which is great. Though they have 100 to go with 10 days left. Isn’t it too late to canvas opinion from businesses in the area with days left to the vote? Unless it’s just an exercise to persuade people to vote yes. Could it be argued that a fresh pair of eyes are needed? Is having a shop in Altrincham the best qualification criteria for making Altrincham succeed? Maybe so, I don’t know. Is the whole point of Portas to be that fresh pair of eyes to really work out what is going on and work ‘on’ the business as opposed to being ‘in’ the business? Do we need marketers on the BID board – experts in taking some of our already great shops and business and making them fly online, open new markets, work differently to the big boys, etc. Do we want Boots, Thomas Cook and the Stamford Quarter on the board? It’s in their interest to keep an eye on everything and make sure that they remain as profitable as possible. How can the Stamford Quarter care equally for my business on Stamford New Road as it does for its empty units and car parks in the BID area? Would the national board member companies still be behind the BID of an independent chemist or travel agent opened up on George Street with amazing products and service and took and empty unit and 1/3 of their business? There are so many questions and so much dialogue yet to happen. I think it’s such a fantastic opportunity to get this right for Altrincham. The BID will go ahead. We all know it. I’m not trying to prevent it. Retail will sway the vote just as it did with the policy survey. The BID board is B2C focused and they are canvassing like mad as you would expect and good luck to them. A BID is a good thing. Altrincham needs to keep going in its resurrection but it doesn’t have a divine right to be a leading market town. That needs work but Altrincham is now so much more than a market town – that nearly died a while back and Altrincham has had to diversify and re-establish its business base. Are we trying to get back to the glory retail days without actually looking at what Altrincham is today? Are the words – digital, finance, business, social, creativity, knowledge in the thinking of the SQ and other members of the Board like Boots, etc? Say NO to a #RID. Vote for a #BID and #MakeAltrinchamFly


This is Part 6   of an ongoing series, to read the previous parts click here: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5.

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