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Portas Pilot Boost For Rotherham Town Centre

posted 25 Jul 2012, 02:38 by RiDO Rotherham   [ updated 25 Jul 2012, 02:41 ]
Town centre businesses in Rotherham can expect a further boost in the coming months thanks to the borough's success in the latest round of the 'Portas Pilot' project.

Rotherham Borough Council heard this week that it has secured £100,000 from the Government scheme, launched in wake of the nationwide review of town centres by Mary 'Queen of Shops' Portas.

The new funding will see the extension of the hugely-successful grants to shops and businesses that has helped Rotherham buck the national trend in visitor numbers over the last ten months. 

The £100,000 provided by the Portas project will be match funded by £100,000 from British Land, the owners of the Parkgate Shopping Park, who have worked closely with the authority to ensure that each of the Rotherham based shopping destinations compliment each other and that the collective shopping experience at both sites is jointly promoted. 

The money will allow support to be given to around 70 existing retailers who show the potential to grow and develop by expanding and diversifying their product range or by relocating and expanding their businesses. They will also be able to obtain assistance in the better targeting of customers through improved marketing and branding and by enhancing the customer experience and ensuring the personal service offered.  

The authority aims to expand the existing Business Vitality Grants Scheme where up to £7,500 of capital funding is allocated to businesses which have the potential to positively contribute to the town's shopping experience and bring something different to the High Street. 

Bespoke marketing and branding training will be available that break the mould of standard packages and support businesses in drawing-up their own marketing strategy. Grant funding of up to £1,000 per applicant will be available to help the business turn their marketing ideas into reality.

A ‘Shopper Experience’ element will based on the traditional ‘Mystery Shopper’ exercise but with an innovative twist. The shopper assessments are conducted by a professional business mentor who using every aspect of the shopper experience, will then work with individual businesses to implement changes, based on the recommended improvements, and with the support of grant funding.

Coun. Gerald Smith, Rotherham Borough Council's Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development, described it as brilliant news for Rotherham and the shopping public. 

He said the funding would allow the authority and its partners to build on the success and hard work that is on-going in the town centre.

He said: "We have been doing a huge amount of work to get people back into the town centre and our footfall figures over the last ten months show that this working. This funding will allow us and our partners to build on that success and hard work and allow us to continue with projects that will give our local shops and businesses the necessary vision for the future.

"Our successful bid encourages and supports businesses to improve their standards, customer-base and profitability, which in turn will ultimately encourage residents to Shop Local!"

Representatives from Rotherham will be attending a national meeting in London of all the Portas Pilots later this year. The event will be attended by Mary Portas and a Minister and will provide an opportunity for Rotherham to share its plans and experiences with other pilot schemes.

The September meeting will take place one year on since Mary visited Rotherham as part of an independent nationwide review to see what government, businesses, local authorities and local enterprise partnerships could do to promote the development of more prosperous and diverse high streets. 

Mary, who turned Harvey Nichols into a household name before breaking into the national conscious with her BBC2 programme, Mary Queen of Shops, gave Rotherham the thumbs up for the town and was really positive for its future retail prospects.

She congratulated Rotherham Borough Council for getting new retailers on their feet saying: "I have seen a lot of new traders and they have been grateful to Rotherham Council for actually getting behind them. To bring new retailers back into town requires financial support, management support and business support, which I found quite inspiring."