BRADFORD BID has teamed up with the Telegraph & Argus to launch a campaign to help city centre businesses prepare for the lifting of Covid-19 restrictions in the weeks and months ahead.
And the city’s Business Improvement District is calling on owners to “get their ducks in a row” and be ready for when non-essential shops and others are able to open again.
In partnership with the T&A, it has pledged to do all it can to promote their efforts and encourage people to return to the city centre but, it says, businesses need to get in touch as soon as possible to let them know what their plans are.
“It’s vital that businesses are ready for when the restrictions are eased because they can’t afford to lose a minute in enticing customers back and making up for the huge losses they have suffered since the start of the pandemic,” said BID chairman Ian Ward.
“We’re not encouraging people to behave rashly – we know that the restrictions are being lifted in stages and we will all have to do everything in our power to help keep people safe, even when most adults have had their vaccinations.
“But we have to be ready to grasp the opportunity to rebuild our livelihoods and that means businesses have to start thinking of ways to win their customers back from the online shopping habits that many will have developed and to find ways to pull in new business.”
Mr Ward said the high street has “clearly suffered badly” from the impact of the pandemic but it still has a bright future if it adapts and changes to meet people’s needs.
“People are itching for the kind of social interactivity that you get from shopping,” he said. “Constantly having to send back clothes that don’t fit and products that aren’t quite what you expected can get pretty wearing after a while!
“The high street grew up in the first place because it was the ideal place to see and feel products and try on garments, while getting one-to-one advice and guidance from shop assistants.
“It’s the most convenient and straightforward way to shop and we need to get back to that unbeatable experience.”
Steve Lowe, commercial director of the T&A, said: “We’re really pleased to be working with the BID on this campaign. It’s all about helping and encouraging businesses to get ready to welcome customers again.
“The high street has changed and it will have to adapt to a new way of operating so businesses can’t really expect to just open their doors and everything will go back to normal.
“They will have to be creative and devise new ways to get customers to return and to find new ones to help replace some of their lost revenue and we will be working closely with the BID to get the message across about what’s on offer.”
BID manager Jonny Noble said: “Now is the time for all city centre businesses to get their ducks in a row while they still have a little time to think about how they’re going to win people back.”
He said it could be through simple offers and discounts, changing the way their store is laid out and how their goods are presented or through more extensive changes to their whole approach to improve the whole experience for consumers.
“It’s not just shops, of course,” said Mr Noble. “We have some brilliant leisure and hospitality businesses and, although they will have to re-open more gradually, there is much they can do to alter and upgrade their offerings. For instance, we are lobbying the Council on their behalf to help make it easier for them to provide an outdoor service from April 12, when Step Two of the Government’s road map kicks in.”
He said whatever the business is and whatever it comes up with, the BID wants to hear about it so it can do everything it can to help promote those improvements, enticements and customer incentives.
Mr Noble added: “Bradford city centre has some fabulous businesses but they can be inclined to hide their lights under a bushel and not do enough to tell people what they have to offer.
“The BID and the T&A want to help change that. The city centre has some fantastically loyal customers and they deserve to see a different and better city centre evolving.
“We aim to lead that change on behalf of our 600 levy-payers and this is where that starts!”
Businesses are urged to contact the BID as soon as possible at email@example.com to let them know their plans so work can begin on preparing marketing and promotional efforts. For more information, see the BID website: bradfordbid.co.uk.