Frome Retail Group met on Tuesday 3rd October at 6pm upstairs at The Cornerhouse. Neil Howlett from the Chamber chaired the meeting. Peter Wheelhouse from the Town Council attended. Thanks to those who came.
Peter Wheelhouse reported that he was meeting with the contractors doing the Boyle Cross Works on Thursday and the Town Council would issue a press release on progress after that, which they have now done. He explained that the concrete chamber couldn’t be ordered until the ground had been opened in case there were cables or archaeological features which could not be identified before that. He assured retailers that the site would be clear and available for use before the beginning of December. The announcement that has now been issued says that the Phase I Part 2 works outside TSB will be done next year, along with cabling which has been held up by SS&E.
Neil & Peter reported that SCC had now sorted out the signs for the delivery bay in King Street.
Those present asked the Chamber to take up Car Parking as a strategic issue, including deliveries, and capacity (for workers and visitors), the impact of North Parade, Jennings Fun Fair and potential impact of the Boxworks Scheme Mark II.
Neil reported that MDC would give free parking for Small Business Saturday and we would put up signs for this as before.
Neil asked for views about the effect of the MDC Christmas free parking in previous years. The consensus, which he pass to MDC was:-
That it was very welcome and helped us compete with local towns which already had substantial amounts of free parking (e.g., Trowbridge and Norton Radstock).
It was good for bricks and mortar businesses for whom the last week before Christmas was becoming very important – by then people didn’t trust online deliveries to deliver and/or were looking for something different, which is what Frome offers.
It has increased turnover although putting a figure on that was not possible, as there were so many other factors.
The late afternoon concession was probably better value for money for Mendip – it brought in people at a time when they might not otherwise come (so they would not be losing revenue from people who might come anyway), and for the town centre provided both sales of goods but also encouraged families to stay and eat.
For some traders it would help make up for significant drops in sales during the week when Jennings Fun Fair was here and there had been insufficient car parking capacity.
The sooner we knew what, if anything, MDC would offer the more benefit we could get from it by encouraging people to plan their Christmas shopping, advertising it to people who might otherwise go to the Bath Christmas Market during December, or to other towns.
This would coincide with the free parking for Small Business Saturday. Neil will discuss with Peter joint marketing.
Peter said that the copy date for adverts for the programme was very soon and it would be out well in advance.
Peter reported that it was intended that street events such as the Lantern Parade would ensure people used the whole of the town centre, not trust the Market Place.
Peter did not have any news (and we forgot to remind him) about whether the Christmas Lights over the streets could be on in November before the lights on the tree.
Most shops would open late on Thursdays, and many would also open on Sundays in December.
Halloween would be low-key on Catherine Hill – sweets might be thrown to children, but most shops would not open, but would keep their lights on.
Feedback on the Pixie presentation from traders who attended or had seen them was positive. They had 20 people signed up in Frome; at least one had already had a sale. As a payment system it was similar in cost to others. Those who signing up early would get the most out of it. There is real potential for this bringing trade to Frome though the Discovery function, which provided free marketing to a defined demographic.