Winchester BID Lobby’s City Council to Review Markets Strategy
The BID has consistently called for the markets to be reduced in number and removed from the High Street, and the Council is now carrying out an in-depth review of the markets ahead of a Cabinet decision in late March.
Following discussions with Winchester BID, the Council is set to consider ideas to ensure maximum benefits to shoppers and retailers alike.
Face-to-face research carried out in the central shopping streets by Tourism South East at the end of 2011 found that “94% of local residents and 95% of non-residents felt that the markets made the experience of visiting Winchester more enjoyable”.
However, despite this data, the BID has continued to express the concerns it has received from businesses about the frequency and location of the markets. Congestion, unfair competition, intrusion on the streetscene, restricted access; smells and excess rubbish on the streets have all been cited over the years. Combined with the additional challenge of restricted parking capacity at Christmas, we believe this meant that your regular customers delayed or cancelled shopping trips or even visits to the hairdresser or dentist and loyal, high value, local shoppers went elsewhere.
Cllr James Byrnes, the City Council’s Portfolio Holder for Local Economy, stated:
“The markets were introduced to support our year-round retailing offer at the height of the recession. We believe that this very successful programme has protected footfall in the city centre in recent years, and enhanced Winchester’s reputation as a shopping destination.
However, the original market plans were intended to be temporary, with the development of Silver Hill offering new opportunities. With the timetable for Silver Hill slipping, however, I believe that now is a good time to review the markets programme and make some decisions about its future shape and form.”
The Council is commissioning independent research from The Retail Group into the views of BID members about the markets. This will also consider proposals for changes to the current location, and gather other suggestions for developments. It is part of a package of evidence – including the BID’s regular ‘Business Barometer’, parking statistics, footfall data and feedback from the Cathedral – on which decisions will be made.
Catherine Turness, Executive Director at the BID, added:
“We are pleased to have helped bring this review about by voicing the views of our members. Working with the Council, we have already seen a number of changes to the original line-up and presentation of stalls. It makes sense, five years on, to pause and take stock of the whole programme. I would urge all businesses in the town to respond to the survey when they are visited by The Retail Group in the coming weeks.”