High street collaboration for local economic development

thumbnail_Meter Sticker PicCommercial collaboration is the way forward for the future of our high streets, says Adrian Ulisse, founder of Better Cities

High streets and town centres are important, both economically and also as centres of social cohesion and inclusion. However, their future health continues to be threatened by the growth of online shopping and out-of-town centres.  High streets need to remain relevant and competitive by improving the ‘consumer experience’, and Better Cities believes this can be achieved through collaboration and by using digital technology.

Online retailers and out-of-town shopping centres already collaborate commercially using data and technology to offer ever better consumer experiences. This is not yet happening in the high street. To make positive changes, a high street has to act as one.  All the key players involved need to work together, and will only do so if they can get some value out of participation.

We have developed an approach that creates value for all stakeholders in the high street – the retailers, the local authority, and the customers. Our first initiative allows high street businesses to cover the parking costs of their customers, in return for a minimum spend.  Shoppers can benefit from this offer across all participating stores – a collective high street offer.

This effectively brings back free parking to the high street.  Our survey of high street shoppers identified that 61% would shop for longer if parking was refunded, and 75% would be more inclined to visit high street shops that refund parking costs.  The service is enabled by the MoreForMe High St branded app and has recently been launched in Deptford High Street in partnership with Lewisham council.

In Deptford, we have 25 independent retailers using it to increase footfall and spend. As well as the parking refund benefit, the app also allows retailers to reach customers’ mobile phones to tell their latest news.  So the shopper gets to recover their car parking costs, discovers new stores and hears what is new in the high street. It has been particularly popular during weekends.

MoreForMe High St is an attractive business development tool for small businesses in that it doesn’t require any new equipment or training and has no upfront costs.  From the perspective of the local authority, the service provides economic development support for local businesses, and the opportunity to increase revenue for local authority car parks serving the high street.

An additional service will also be launched in the near future, starting in several central London locations. By targeting local workers with exclusive promotions, this aims to increase weekday and early evening sales for local businesses – adding value to the working week.  Our survey of workers identified that 90% of people would spend more if they had a local worker offer, and 96% would try a new outlet if incentivised by a worker offer.  Again, this is designed for small independent businesses with no upfront costs or technology to install, and the service can be provided on a pay-on-results basis.  This will be particularly beneficial for areas that have a high density of employment in their city centre, and for employers who are looking to incentivise their employees.

We view this approach as a co-operative way to enhance the economic sustainability of high street communities that are now able to benefit from the amazing connection and transaction capabilities of digital technology.  We will be launching these services in other UK locations later this year and would be keen to hear from high street and city centre communities that would be interested in using our services to boost business activity.


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