In the latest of a string initiatives geared towards positioning Wrexham as a place to welcome visitors, shop owners in and around Wrexham gathered yesterday evening to learn more about the ‘Thriving High Street Campaign’.
The campaign, funded by the Welsh Government through the European Social Fund and delivered by the National Skills Academy seeks to support town centre businesses through training and mentoring in a number of areas.
Jane Rexworthy, Head of the National Skills Academy for Retail, highlighted the advantages small independent retailers have over national brands. She referenced their ability to change and adapt to market conditions, particularly pertinent at a time where HMV, Blockbuster and Jessops have all recently gone into administration, but that this ability to adapt requires nurturing and support in a number of areas.
Retailers can sign up to the scheme for a fee of £50, with a charge of £25 per module thereafter. Modules are split up into three categories and include support in business planning, marketing & sales, buying & visual merchandising and customer service.
Council Leader Neil Rogers welcomed the new initiative and spoke at length about how reports in one local newspaper had caused damage to local residents perceptions of the town centre. He said he believes the local authority has an increasingly important role to play in overturning these perceptions and supporting national retailers, independent retailers and market traders. Mr Rogers also alluded to work being carried out in destination management, helping to link Wrexham with other areas of visitor interest saying:
“We want people to come and spend their money in the town. We are very much open for business. There are both huge opportunities to work in partnership with local towns and businessmen in this area willing to invest significant sums we can all benefit from.”
Amanda Davies, Marketing & Promotions Manager for Wrexham Council, said the initiative would work in tandem with the plans to address negative perceptions of Wrexham and destination management plans, aimed at encouraging tourist hubs to work together for mutually beneficial gain.
Questions were raised surrounding the future of our shops given that online shopping now represents 18% of all retail sales, a figure which continues to rise and brings into question the levels of rent and business rates High Street retailers are forced to incur.
Wrexham is the first town in Wales to benefit from this campaign and retailers were encouraged to register and get the training they need to take the town forward.