Retail Group 31st January 2017
These are some notes of the Retail Group Meeting.
There were not quite as many people as usual but they made up for that in both volume and quality.
Review of December
Trade had been seriously disrupted by the roadworks on Bath St. These were an emergency. The Town Council had put pressure on the contractors.
We will work with the Town Council to develop a strategy for incidents like this, including making sure diversions, signs and media reports don’t say the town centre is closed when it isn’t. There are things we can do better and more quickly than Somerset Highways.
The Town Council is informed of planned work and has been asked if they can monitor this and contact us if there anything they notice which is likely to be disruptive so we can put these plans into operation. There is also a very good public access website https://roadworks.org/.
After that trade was good or very good, with lots of visitors from outside Frome, attracted by independent shops and some avoiding Bath. Some retailers were limited by capacity not customers.
Small Business Saturday had no effect. The Chamber had put up signs advertising this in the Cattle Market car park, but there had been no other publicity and MDC’s enforcement officer was confused because nobody had told him about it. This was a failure of communications within MDC.
Car parks were full for the week before Christmas. The Free Parking certainly encouraged that though they might have been full anyway. The Chamber had put up posters and MDC had advertised this with a Press Release.
If we knew about this earlier in the year we could do more to advertise it and attract people to Frome.
There were very positive views about the Christmas Event from traders and they had received good feedback from people who had attended. We liked the family focus, and emphasis on children and entertainment.
The Christmas Lights were appreciated but there was a consensus that they should start earlier (mid November) and come on earlier (if not all day). The Town Council are reviewing these and that will be reported.
The Boyle Cross and crossing the Market Place
The Town Council reported that although they now had planning consent they were still in negotiations with MDC who own the land. They will consult with the Retail Group and market traders about the timing of any works but they are not imminent.
The consensus of the Retail Group was that although 20 minutes free parking was nice it was more important to improve the town centre and enable people to cross the road. Some thought the parking was badly managed, created a poor impression of the town and was a hazard.
Will start again monthly from March. There are now special trains run by GWR.
The consensus was that this was good for Frome, gave us credibility and encouraged visitors, even from those who felt their trade was affected negatively around the dates of the Markets. The Market organisers know things can be improved, so do let them, but remember that every change has a knock on effect.
The Market is doing a survey – you can respond through that.
The Chamber and Town Council will be doing surveys of visitors. We want their experience of Frome, good and bad, to let us know what we can improve. Research shows that visitors can be strongly influenced by “touch points” where their experience of better or worse than they expect.
This in a trial stage. Please help if you are asked. The results will be reported later this year.
Terry Pinto of PAAD Architects proposed we have a voucher redeemable in independent shops in Frome, both as a gift people can give to show loyalty to Frome, but also a marketing opportunity. We agreed to look at other places where schemes had been successful, and where they had not, and will report back in April.
Charles Wood announced that this was his last meeting as he was stepping back from his many roles in civic life in Frome. Charles was instrumental in the running of Vision 4 Frome which identified and provides the evidence of many of the policies now adopted by the Town Council, and in the Somerset Towns Forum which was very helpful in allowing towns to share experience and skills.
6pm Tuesday 7th March 2017 – probably at the Cornerhouse upstairs.