Rarely a day goes by without news of another high street closure.
In fact, our local newspaper recently reported on a number of empty units in the town centre. While the article included errors, it’s true Banbury is facing challenges and empty units are one of them.
With many high streets struggling, does the retail core around which town centres are based need a rethink?
Nationally, spending cuts, business-rate hikes and high rents are hurting business owners. Add to that the rise of online shopping.
As a busy working mum, I get it. Shopping online is often less hassle and more cost-effective.
However, I for one would hate to see town centres become ghost towns – how about you?
What drives footfall?
While retail is a key part of a town centre’s offering, it’s not the only thing that drives footfall. Cheap and easy parking, cleanliness, a safe environment, good signage and transport links also play a part.
Understandably business closures have a knock-on effect on the local economy.
As businesses close and jobs disappear, there is less money to go around. Therefore less money for investment and less disposable income.
Budget cuts often lead to reduced services – parking subsidies, cleaning, security, promotion and transport. Unfortunately, reduced services make town centres less vibrant and not so good for businesses.
Plus, consumers on a tight budget tend to focus more on price and cut back on life’s luxuries.
To survive town centres including Banbury, must not only drive footfall but get visitors to part with their hard-earned.
With challenge comes an opportunity
One of the ways towns like Banbury are fighting back is by working together.
Many have formed a ‘BID’ or Business Improvement District – not for profit business-led partnerships. Businesses and organisations then pay a levy to help fund town centre improvements.
Banbury BID was formed to better promote the town and support 539 contributing businesses. Over a five-year term, it will invest over £1 million on key priorities set out in the Banbury BID business plan.
My role as BID Manager is to champion the unique assets of our town and create a buzz. Plus, I’m working hard to forge links with people and organisations to help raise its profile.
Banbury is a historic market town in Oxfordshire, famous for the children’s rhyme ‘Ride a cock horse to Banbury Cross’. It is also known for good coffee and Banbury Cakes – similar to an Eccles Cake but, in mine and many local’s opinions, better!
With a rich history, beautiful canal and strong cultural offering, people should be flocking to Banbury, right? Well, let’s just say we could do with more.
You could consider the town a ‘best-kept secret’. And that won’t help Banbury and its businesses flourish!
Banbury is on the up and up
Walk around the town centre and yes you will find empty units, but you’ll also find many new businesses.
With so many new businesses moving into our town centre over the past year, the Banbury BID Town Hosts went to chat to a few of them about why they chose to open in Banbury.
As well as national stores, Banbury has an eclectic mix of independents that would appeal to fans of Brighton’s Lanes and York’s Shambles.
Most of these can be found in Banbury old town, bursting with retailers, eateries, bars, galleries and service-based businesses. Recent additions include:
- Blend (inside Empire Tattoo Studio)
- Coffee Hut
- Doodledash Interiors (bigger premise)
- Funk Boutique
- Lenny’s Bar
- Nothing But Footprints
- Revival Mk II
- Shelia’s Sweets
- The Apothecary Tap
- Tom’s Diner
- White Horse Gallery
Loyalty is hard to find, but not in Banbury
We’re helping to better promote Banbury and its diverse and changing offering through a town centre app – LoyalFree. The free app for smartphone users is helping people save money when they shop local in Banbury.
Importantly, it is helping to drive footfall to our town and reduce marketing costs for our levy-payers. Businesses are using the app to shout about their offers while rewarding consumers for shopping local, at no additional cost.
You can view some of the great business offers available on our website.
Alternatively, if you’re interested in incredible deals, exciting local events and fun trails download the app now!
Banbury – the ‘sunshine’ town
There may be dark clouds over many UK high streets, but the sun shines bright here whatever the weather.
In fact, the sun appears on the Banbury Coat of Arms and many of the town’s architectural features.
We took inspiration from the cheery orb for several of our summer promotional activities.
Pick up a copy of our sunshine themed Love Banbury Summer Guide available from local retailers or view online. Our handy guide is ideal for finding out what’s on and where to shop, eat and drink in town.
Keen to reduce plastic waste? Then you must buy a ‘Little Bag of Sunshine’. These bags are not only stylish but are made from 100% recyclable materials, helping to save the planet every time you shop.
Importantly, you’ll be supporting our stockists who benefit from every sale and they’re selling like (Banbury) hotcakes.
Snap up a limited-edition bag at one of the following stores:
- Banbury Museum
- Church Lane Gallery
- Doodledash Interiors
- Nothing But Footprints
- The Apothecary Tap
- The Artery Artshop
- Tooley’s Boat Yard
- White Stuff
Banbury – a town of opportunity
The BID is investing in projects to make the town centre shine brighter during its five-year term. But how does the Banbury BID Board decide what to spend its budget on?
A wise lady once said: “If you don’t know where you’ve come from, you don’t know where you’re going”. That’s why we’ve taken the time to discover how shoppers and visitors currently view Banbury, so we invest wisely.
We’ve surveyed over 1,000 shoppers and visitors to the town and a retail park on the outskirts as part of a customer experience programme. As we crunch the numbers, we’re looking for opportunities to improve our town centre and better support our levy-payers.
A pocketful of sunshine
First impressions count. So, we’ve been making some visual improvements to the town. Our ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ and suspended suns have proven to be a real talking point – have you seen them?
Take a trip to Church Lane and you’re sure to leave Banbury sun-kissed and not just because of the resident tanning salon. Up and down the lane, Banbury suns beam down from upon high ready to greet you.
Visit the high street end and you will find our ‘Pocketful of Sunshine’ dedicated to the late Mr Banbury, Brian Little. Once a neglected alcove rife with graffiti and litter, the area has been transformed with a sun mural and boxes of wildflowers.
Stop by and take a sunny selfie, just be sure to include the hashtag #PocketfulofSunshine when posting online!
Take a ‘Butchers’ at our brollies
Have you walked down Butchers Row recently? Next time you visit, look up! See raindrops disappear as our Banbury Brollies and festoon lights fill the sky, helping to make our town centre more vibrant.
It’s amazing what a splash of colour can do to lift the spirits of shoppers and visitors as they walk on by.
Visit Banbury to take a photo whether it’s raining or not, just be sure to include the hashtag #BanburyBrollies when posting online.
Much ado about nothing?
Some people might say apps, promotional guides, suns and brollies are unlikely to make a difference.
To them I say, would you rather we do nothing?
We need to start somewhere. And, inventive ways to encourage people to visit the town centre and promote its businesses is a start.
We cannot control market conditions, rates, rents or stop people shopping online, but we can make Banbury better. Better promoted. Better for business and more vibrant.
Banbury BID will continue to connect people to the town; build a sense of community and give people a reason to visit.
So, what does the future hold for Banbury town centre? Only time will tell.
However, just like its famous spice-filled currant cakes, I believe Banbury has the raw ingredients to reinvent itself.