Campaigning for #IndieRetail in #Rochdale by @Paul25Ten

It was the American poet Allen Ginsberg who said his generation of writers had moved the world a millionth of an inch.

As an independent trader in Rochdale who’s spent the last four years chivvying, cajoling and campaigning for our local council to do more to support small businesses, I’ve made similar progress – albeit in a tiny corner of Lancashire.

One successful independent retailer is great; A cluster of successful independents becomes a destination…

Fighting a battle on two fronts is exhausting. Ask any small independent and they’ll tell you the struggle to keep going on a daily basis in tough economic conditions and slowly grow and develop your business is all consuming. But add to that the task of campaigning for independents and making sure the high street is firmly on the Council’s agenda and it becomes a lot more difficult.

Once you achieve success in the first battle, though, and from modest roots your business begins to branch out, then the second battle becomes totally necessary. If independents are to really succeed it helps if there are more of them and a critical mass is formed. One successful independent is great, but on its own it won’t make somewhere a must-visit place. A cluster of successful independents, however, becomes a destination and raises the aspirations of a town.

Creating the right environment to foster success requires support from many parties, and on many levels

Creating the right environment for this to happen requires a local council to deliver a wide range of supportive policies on car parking, planning, enterprise and many other issues.

The Government – through its Local Government Finance Bill – is currently talking of the need to stimulate links between councils and small businesses.

This is to be welcomed and in the current climate it’s needed more than ever. Achieving it is another matter entirely. Because – as Kipling might have said, the culture of enterprise and the culture of councils are at two ends of the spectrum and never the twain shall meet.

Determination wins – £1,000,000 from the council to create a “High Street Foundation”!

But by working with other traders and interested parties, and doggedly sticking to our campaign, even when it looked like everything I said was falling on deaf ears, the gap is narrowing. The Council has made some concessions on free parking. I’ve made progress on establishing a ‘shop local’ campaign with the local newspaper and got the Council to commit to a short-term plan for the town centre. One million pounds of investment has been committed by the Council to this. We’ve established a High Street Foundation that brings local businesses together to support the future of our local high street. I’ve managed to get a significant reduction on my business rates and encouraged other local traders to appeal their evaluation. And we’ve got the Council to support the creation of a local emporium to support independent traders.

More to do – focusing on planning decisions, support for small businesses, a sensible regeneration strategy

All of this is to be welcomed and is definitely a step in the right direction. But our town still faces many challenges and there’s a lot more to do. We need to stop reckless and ill-considered planning decisions that threaten traders’ livelihoods. We need more incentives for independents to come to our town, better links with landlords, more activities to bring families and young people in to town and a sensible regeneration strategy that focuses less on big bang developments of the past and more on nurturing smaller scale projects that build a greater sense of community.

Paul Turner-Mitchell – Business Owner, Retailer, family man, campaigner and chair of Rochdale’s High Street Foundation!

Since I accepted the role of chair of Rochdale’s High Street Foundation my ‘to-do list’ has grown and grown. Battling recession, depressed consumer confidence and a view that sometimes refuses to learn from the mistakes of the past, makes it an uphill struggle. But as long as independents nationally continue to grow and take over prime retail space on high streets that multiples are vacating, the prize of more diverse, vibrant and community-orientated high streets is still there for the taking. 

This blog was written by Paul Turner Mitchell, owner of 25 Ten Boutique in Rochdale and avid campaigner for Independent Retailers. You can connect with Paul on twitter – @Paul25Ten or be inspired by how effectively his team run their facebook page – http://www.facebook.com/25TenBoutique – with over 6000 likes!

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About Clare Bailey

Clare Bailey, The Retail Champion (formerly Clare Rayner), is one of the most well-known and respected retail experts in the UK. With unrivalled knowledge in retail, high streets and consumer matters, she offers unbiased, independent content – whether engaged as a professional speaker, for broadcast media, or for a written feature. Clare is a business woman, entrepreneur and founder of several small businesses. Having been born into a family of successful business owners, it was inevitable that she’d eventually jump off the corporate treadmill and step out on her own! Today her brand portfolio includes The Retail Champion, The Retail Conference, the Future High Street Summit and the Support for Independent Retail campaign. In addition, she is co-founder of Mobaro Retail UK and a non-exec director of Beed Virtual Assistant Services. Having started her career as a fast-track store management trainee for McDonalds, she went on to work with leading retailers such as M&S, Dixons and Argos. She moved swiftly into management roles before being headhunted into senior consulting roles with global software giant SAP, and international management consulting brand, Accenture. Her corporate background in senior retail, consulting and technology roles, coupled with her experience of creating and running her own business, has enabled her to be equally capable whether consulting to global brands or micro businesses. This unique blend has not only positioned her as a leading expert in all things retail, but has enabled her to add meaningful commentary and insight to the debate around the future of the high street, and, how technology is driving fundamental change in the way consumers, and businesses, interact. Clare has become an influential voice in her field, which has resulted in her becoming a regular media contributor and sought-after conference speaker. Often seen on Good Morning Britain, BBC Breakfast, Sky News, and Chanel 5 (to name a few), Clare speaks on a myriad of retail, high street and consumer issues – but is particular adept when it comes to explaining the context behind retail trading results, newly released data, and government stats, in a palatable and informative manner. In addition to broadcast and conference speaking, Clare is the proud author of two best-selling business books published by Kogan Page - The Retail Champion: 10 Steps to Retail Success, published July 2012 and How to Sell to Retail: The Secrets of Getting Your Product to Market, published February 2013. She has provided contributions to various academic texts, including Retail Marketing Management (published by Pearson). With an engaging, conversational yet informative style, Clare writes for press and content agencies, providing features, articles, blogs and opinion pieces as well as contributions to white papers and reports. However, when the situation demands a more serious style, Clare can deliver - In 2016 she wrote an extensive report for a major insurance and risk law firm, as a retail expert witness, to support a public liability suit. She found that project particularly enjoyable as it played well to her strengths – assimilating large amounts of data and information, identifying the key points and articulating that in an understandable manner. When not on TV or speaking at conferences, Clare’s “day job” sees her supporting consumer-facing businesses through her consultancy services. When asked to describe what she most loves about retail consulting it is typically the opportunity to “dig deep”, getting “under the bonnet”, in order to leverage the business data to uncover the insights that lead to “lightbulb moments”. She also loves working on business change programmes that centre on improving the processes and systems to increase profitability by supporting more rapid, better informed decision making, improving the customer experience, or simply by become more efficient and streamlined. In this respect she considers herself a “business engineer” with a brain that works like a relational database! Due to her years of experience, her logical, objective approach, her quick, rational thinking, she is known for being able to cut through complexity, seeing right through to the crux of issues, finding creative solutions that others may have overlooked. As if all that wasn’t enough, Clare is a working mum, juggling a home life in rural Lincolnshire with her partner, their 5 kids, 4 cats, and geriatric Labrador! For all enquiries, contact Clare directly on 01727 238890 or email champion@retailchampion.co.uk.
This entry was posted in Independent Retailer Month - Blog-a-day for #IndieRetail and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Campaigning for #IndieRetail in #Rochdale by @Paul25Ten

  1. Pingback: A blog-a-day for #IndieRetail | Clare Rayner: The Retail Champion

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