After months of supporting city centre businesses through the most difficult period they have ever faced, Bradford BID is now turning its attention to helping those businesses to recover.
By Damian Holmes
It has launched a Getting Bradford Back to Business initiative which is designed to help its members to get themselves back on their feet and to return as much as possible to pre-lockdown levels of trade.
And as part of that, it is running the Welcome to Brilliant Bradford campaign which is designed to encourage both new and returning visitors to see the city and its shops, pubs, restaurants and other customer facing businesses in a new light.
The BID remained continually active throughout the long lockdown months, helping its levy payers prepare for re-opening, offering guidance to help them understand the many new requirements on them for trading in the new retail and hospitality environment.
Now its chairman Ian Ward says the focus must be on Getting Back to Business, and a big part of that will be getting the message out to people to see the huge amount the city centre has to offer.
As part of that focus, there will be a series of Getting Back to Business blogs to promote the sometimes hidden attractions Bradford can offer, and the BID is also highlighting a Trader of the Week to show the wide range of services and goods, and the quality that is offered in the city, as well as the attractions of Bradford itself.
“Bradford has a huge amount to offer for residents and visitors alike but we don’t always appreciate what we have on our doorstep.Ian Ward
“’Familiarity breeds contempt’ the saying goes but ‘contempt’ is not the right word in this context. Because we know the city so well, it’s easy to take it for granted; to overlook the qualities and attractions that many other cities would die for.
“Bradford has a proud and rich history and even though times and fortunes change we still have that amazing legacy of when the city was one of the fastest-growing business centres in the country, at the centre of a huge international trade in wool and the engine of industrial innovation.
“That period produced tremendous physical growth and a determination from our forefathers to show off their new-found importance in the sheer prestige of our built environment.
“Very few towns or cities in the UK can boast a mass of Victorian buildings of such high quality and grandeur. Today, they still form a fabulous backdrop to a shopping, hospitality and leisure experience that is rich in culture.
“Add to those modern developments such as City Park and The Broadway, important and renowned cultural institutions including the National Science and Media Museum, the Alhambra Theatre and St George’s Hall, and unique visitor experiences like Sunbridgewells, and you start to see why Bradford is the envy of many other places.”
He said the lockdown period had had a huge effect on everyone, and that restrictions due to coronavirus would remain in place for some time to come, but it was time to be positive about the city and to look to attract new and existing business back in.
“The last few months have been hard for everybody, and we may well have to live with the limitations that the Covid-19 pandemic imposes for a good while to come, but there is light at the end of the tunnel and we should see the present situation as a fabulous opportunity to revisit and reacquaint ourselves with what our amazing city has to offer,” he said.
“Bradford BID has worked extremely hard during the lockdown period to help businesses prepare for the recovery and we are continuing to do all we can to offer support and guidance, with our focus on Getting Bradford Back to Business.
“As part of that campaign, we have launched Welcome to Brilliant Bradford to encourage visitors old and new to see the city in a new light, to rediscover its shops, its hostelries and its attractions, to think like a first-time visitor; to call into and wander round streets and shops they may have got used to passing by unnoticed; to fall back in love with the glorious architecture and the palpable sense of history.
“We want people to familiarise themselves with Bradford all over again and, in doing so, to help our city centre businesses to bounce back from the financial traumas the pandemic inflicted. And when the time is right, they will be well prepared to encourage others to join them and come and see for themselves with a simple message: Welcome to Brilliant Bradford!”
A key part of that process will see a mix of mix of long-established businesses and newer operations highlighted as Trader of the Week, both through articles in the Telegraph & Argus and via social media sharing.
For the Cake ‘Ole, a quirky and unique tea room which set up shop in City Park last year, the personal touch local businesses can provide is a key factor as they get back to business.
They have reduced opening days, and now have a waitress service, reduced traffic flow, and a sanitisation station.
“We are delighted to be back up and running and thank everyone who’s making that effort to come visit us,” says Richard. “Local businesses are the backbone of any community. Our staff have names and are not just numbers to us and our customers know us and we know them.
“Local businesses provide a personal touch and a sense of safety for those who don’t have the confidence to enter a big establishment on their own. As an independent we appreciate and welcome everyone and we’ll do all we can to keep you safe.”
72-year-old John Greenwood, owner and managing director of Bradford Camera Exchange (BCE) – one of the city’s longest established independent retailers – says the enforced closure has actually made him more determined than ever to keep on working.
“It was relief to get back,” he says. “You can only carry on so long at home, can’t you? It made me think that there’s not too much mileage in retiring. You’re sitting there wondering what to do next week whereas in business you never stop. We’re always busy.
“We’ve offered a really personal service for the last 84 years to the people of Bradford and over that time we’ve been able to help an awful lot of people with anything to do their interest in photography,” he says. “And we’re still able to do that. There are obviously today some people who think the only way to buy things is to tap a mouse on their computer but they are missing the personal experience of someone who is interested in the same sort of thing as them, the advice they could have got, and the interesting tips and the like that we could have passed on.
“There’s a lot to be said for independent businesses like ourselves remaining viable so that people can take advantage of all that knowledge.
“Up to now we’ve always been able to sell everything through the shop and I do rather like the idea that you’re dealing face to face with people. And I like the thought that the bargains we offer are enjoyed by local people – if we start selling our cameras on the internet to all over the country then we’ll never see these people and of course we won’t build up the same relationship.
“I’m quite keen to try to maintain the personal contact. We have lots of loyal customers, people who have been using us for years who keep coming back because they know they will get the same personal advice and service.”
Another long-established city centre trader is Mario’s Hairdressing, which was founded in 1950. Over that time, the still-family run business, with operations on Kirkgate and the Wool Exchange, has had celebrity clients including Zayn Malik, Chris Fountain, Roger Daltrey, James Wattana, David Batty, Robbie Paul, Bradford City and Leeds United football players, Bradford Bulls rugby players, cast members from Emmerdale and, among others, Bollywood celebrities and musicians, through its doors.
As with all personal services companies, getting back to business after the lockdown has presented them with some new challenges but they have risen to the occasion.
“We have installed protective toughened glass screens and have the correct PPE for both staff and clients,” say Bobby. “We are also protected by electrostatic disinfection and the salons are distancing workstations to minimise risk.
“For the first time in the history of the business, we have also now started appointment systems via an app called ‘Booksy’.”
Re-opening their doors has been a “huge relief.” Managing director Lucy Corradini, granddaughter of founder Ugo De Luca and the third generation of the family to join the business, says: “It’s great to have overcome a hurdle that’s unprecedented in our 80 years of trading as a business.
“A lot of the staff have worked together as a team for years and, suddenly, to not see each other daily was a huge shock.
“So we’re thrilled to be welcoming back our loyal customers and friends. It’s so important that communities support their local businesses to maintain access to all the goods or services they need to have a balanced and quality way of life.
“Apart from which, we’ve missed them!”
Florist Blooms on Market Street opened its doors only six months ago – just days before the coronavirus pandemic brought much of retail life to a virtual standstill.
Owner Ann Fawcett said : “Since we opened we have had to deal with COVID-19 but we were able to take our store online and that really helped us as customers were ordering right the way through lockdown, for everything from sympathy flowers to birthdays!”
One highlight of the summer was when they supplied Bradford BID with the white roses they handed out free to city centre visitors on Yorkshire Day, August 1.
“We were really pleased to be able to support Bradford BID with their white roses for Yorkshire Day – it was such a great thing to be a part of!” says Ann.
Blooms has taken every care to ensure it is safe for customers. In line with the regulations, they keep customer store numbers to a minimum, “which allows us more time with each person that comes in, so we can help then find their ideal arrangement.”
They have a special cleaning schedule in place to help them mitigate any transmission risks that could emanate from the store and, of course, they maintain social distancing at all times.
Ann is clearly thrilled to be greeting customers in person again: “It means the world to us to have re-opened! We managed to survive through lockdown as we were able to partner with some fantastic local businesses and funeral directors who were incredible and referred their customers to us for their needs at this difficult time.
“But we’re so pleased that we can actually get to welcome customers into the store. It’s a great place that we are really proud of and we want to show it off!”
And, as a fledging business, they have been overwhelmed by the welcome they’ve had: “Without the support of the local community we wouldn’t have been able to come back as we have,” say Ann.
“The support we have had, even initially as we had only just opened two days before lockdown was imposed, was fantastic; we had customers coming to us from all over the city.
“Large businesses and corporations have vastly greater cash reserves than small businesses like Blooms and without the support of the community it would spell the end for shops like ours as we rely on the residents of Bradford for our trade.”
One North Parade business which opened its doors for the first time as many other businesses were taking their first tentative steps back after lockdown says the support it has received has been superb.
Crafted opened its doors for the first time on August 26th, at a time when many would have felt the last thing they wanted to do was start a new venture.
But the team behind Bradford’s newest bar were so taken with their North Parade venue when they viewed it for the first time that they literally couldn’t stop themselves.
General manager Liam Curtis says: “ “As soon as we walked in we fell in love with it; the size of the venue, the features that were already there, just seemed fitting for our spin on it and our concept.
“We feel we’ve been getting a lot of support from local people, especially with the restrictions on and people are naturally a little wary of going out, which has been great and we hope it continues.”
Crafted is a mix of craft ale house, sleek cocktail bar and mid-range restaurant, with food ranging from “small plates” such as crispy belly pork with sweet chilli or halloumi fries with home-made ketchup, through to classic American hotdogs and a range of.
They have made every effort to ensure they meet the highest health and hygiene standards, regardless of Covid-19, and now all their staff wear masks, everything is cleaned and sanitised as often as possible with table service only, and are hoping soon to be able to add decking outside which will help them to cater for more people safely as well as give people opportunity to enjoy the fabulous location.