Experience Guildford, the town’s Business Improvement District (BID) reveals key priorities for town centre businesses as they gear up to get back to business in 2021. Their annual survey sent to all BID members highlights the areas that they deem most important over the coming months, emphasising the central areas of ongoing support that the partnership can offer.

After a long year of reduced footfall, enforced business closure, cancelled events and ongoing transition to digital due to the impact of Covid-19, the survey explores the main areas of support that Experience Guildford has offered and the ongoing actions that businesses deem most important to aid their recovery.

Key themes include:

Safety & business crime reduction

During the past 12 months, Guildford has further strengthened it’s Business Crime Reduction Partnership (BCRP), a collaboration between Surrey Police, Experience Guildford and the local authority to help reduce town centre crime, with around 200 businesses now signed up to the scheme. More recently a new Exclusion Scheme has been launched, designed to identify and deter repeat offenders through the issue of Criminal Behaviour Orders and centre-wide bans.

For local businesses, this partnership approach to tackling criminal and antisocial behaviour in the town has never been so important and was repeatedly flagged as a key priority for the coming months.

Referring to the BCRP and Exclusion Scheme, respondents commented;

“This scheme is essential during these hard times” [BCRP]

“This has been a massive help to my business. I have been trading here for 15 years and have never had help with shoplifter or credit card crimes, but now I do – thank you” [BCRP]

“This is a good idea for persistent offenders – needed in every town.” [Exclusion Scheme]

If you are a town centre business yet to sign up to the BCRP or would like more information on their activities, including the Exclusion Scheme and how it can benefit your business, email Pete Lambert, Town Safety & Venue Liaison Manager at pete@experienceguildford.com

Experience Guildford Town Rangers

Experience Guildford’s Town Rangers have become an integral part of the town over the years and their presence during this year of uncertainty has never been more important or welcome. Offering ground support to the businesses who have been able to operate during lockdown, they also played a crucial role in helping support others in preparation for re-opening and further lockdown whilst re-assuring visitors to the town of the plethora of covid safety measure that have been introduced. Their ongoing presence is seen as a vital part of the BID’s provision and an invaluable resource to levy payers.

“They are an asset to Guildford town centre and have been brilliant helping with situations I have had” [Town Centre Rangers]

“They are well-needed and I value their presence” [Town Centre Rangers]

Town Rangers will continue to be a visible and reassuring presence in the town centre, offering their support to businesses and visitors alike.

Support local & independent businesses

Local and independent businesses have always played an integral role in the prosperity of Guildford, creating a unique point of difference for the town and enhancing destination status. Throughout 2020 these businesses have faced unprecedented uncertainty and loss of earnings, they’ve had to be nimble to find new revenue streams, and versatile to face the ever-changing business landscape throughout Covid restrictions.

During this time Experience Guildford has done much to promote the town’s local and independent businesses, tapping into the increased consumer desire to ‘support local’ and shop or consume closer to home. Their campaigns in this area have been well received, positioned as ongoing initiatives welcomed by BID members.

From enhanced social media support and online collaboration, to free point of sale material to convey the safety of the town to visitors when high street trading resumed. Experience Guildford has continued to drive awareness of the town’s independent and local businesses in a bid to raise Guildford’s profile as a destination that can serve the local community’s needs (both physically and online), whilst also ensuring all the necessary covid safeguarding is in place.

Empty shops & inward investment

Like so many towns across the country, Guildford has unfortunately had its share of businesses which have been forced to permanently close. Guildford’s recent count of vacant units currently stands as 13.2%*, and we can assume that this number could potentially increase. Vacant units feature as an important issue to tackle in the town centre in a bid to continue to attract visitors and businesses to the area.

“Vacant shops are like a retail disease”, commented one respondent, demonstrating the far-reaching impact that they can have on the prosperity of the town.

Experience Guildford is committed to driving several initiatives to help tackle this problem. Their work with Hammond Associates, a specialist property company that matches empty commercial units with local art and community charities, has not only provided valuable high street space to local talent but has also offered business rate and insurance relief to landlords during this time.

A new partnership with the Completely Group will see a new town centre commercial property microsite launched, targeting prospective businesses looking to set up shop in Guildford and thus helping to facilitate inward investment. Plus, a number of new operators have also confirmed that they will be taking up occupancy in the town, including Rituals and Posh Pawn who open on the High Street and a new Turkish restaurant which opens on Chapel Street.

Commenting on the survey, challenges ahead and ongoing solutions offered by Experience Guildford, Amanda Masters, CEO at Experience Guildford says;

“It goes without saying that 2020 has been one of the most difficult year’s experienced by businesses across the country, and the start of 2021 continues to provide its challenges. Our BID members survey has done much to crystallise the salient issues faced by businesses in our town, and to help us focus our efforts with continued enthusiasm to ensure that as a town we are the best we can be and offer support to all. Thank you to all those who completed the survey – the information provided is invaluable, and of course, to all our partners who help deliver the initiatives that will ultimately see Guildford bounce back to strength when we emerge from the grips of this pandemic.”

For more information on all the initiatives employed by Experience Guildford and their ongoing support to the town centre, visit www.experienceguildford.com