We speak with Chairman Colin Hicks about the Business Improvement District
Newsletter readers may remember Chichester’s BID received a boost just before last Christmas. A ballot among city centre retailers and other business resulted in a clear majority in favour of BID continuing its work to improve the city centre for everyone. On this hopeful foundation BID’s management board has been taking stock of its contribution to Chichester life.
The Chichester BID – some background
Business Improvement Districts, or more simply BIDs, are partnerships between all the organisations and individuals who want lively and successful city and town centres. They started in Canada over 40 years ago, came to Britain in 2004 and began at Chichester in 2012. This is because BIDs are regarded as making a positive difference, injecting management and money to build a hopeful future. BIDs are funded by a levy on those paying non-domestic rates. They must be agreed by a ballot of local businesses and are renewed every five years. That’s why there was a ballot in Chichester last autumn: the first five years – BID 1 – had expired. The numbers involved are perhaps surprising: in the Chichester BID area (within the City Walls) are over 700 businesses: about half are retail (shops) and a fifth offer food or drink; the rest provide commercial and inter-business services.
What has Chichester’s BID achieved?
Most obviously, the Christmas lights! The 2016 switch-on attracted our largest crowd ever. Less obvious are the many behind-the-scene activities to increase the city centre’s viability. For example, installing new digital ‘footflow’ counters to monitor ‘people movement’ – knowing whether numbers are rising or falling is important. The BID also promotes Chichester and its events and attractions by regional advertising to encourage visitors. When they arrive we help them get orientated. Have you noticed the many map boards in car parks? They are there because of BID. And have you noticed the leaflet-style street maps in purpose-designed dispensers around the city centre? BID printed 150,000. It’s a small thing, but a free street map can be really helpful to visitors. A last example of behind-the-scenes efforts is improving the city centre’s security – it’s called Chichester Businesses Against Crime (ChiBAC) and has been quietly successful.
Chichester’s city centre is changing
It will not have escaped your notice that pedestrian streets everywhere are changing. Shopping is migrating to the Internet which now accounts for some 17% of UK retail spending. So there are fewer shoppers on the nation’s high streets, Chichester included. But those still coming seek other opportunities whilst in town: coffee, a meal, visit an exhibition; take a stroll around the park. This is a shopping experience you cannot get on the Internet: knowledgeable personal service often from an independent retailer, the chance to try on clothes, an impulse buy at the farmers’ market.
Keep those tills ringing!
Chichester has plenty to offer residents’ and visitors’ changing habits and tastes. In retail jargon this city is a ‘multiple shopping destination’ but it’s also a town with a successful University and College; and it’s alive with arts, culture and heritage of national importance. Over the next five years 2017-22 the BID 2 team will continue to maintain partnerships with local government and others like the Chamber of Commerce and Visit Chichester. The BID’s task is straightforward: to increase the city centre’s viability and keep those tills ringing!
(This article appears in the June 2017 Society Newsletter – join the Society to receive this Newsletter and enjoy other benefits)