My personal view of why Wrexham ought to remain a Town
November 8, 2021 at 3:14 pm #211218
I’m used to the idea of Branding and Re-branding. I had to study the subject, occasionally teach the subject and…..in my own Business life……implement the subject.
One of my favourite Branding theoreticians is Roger Brooks. To use some of his wise words, Branding relies upon basic principles:
• Brands are perceptions
• Brands are built on the perceived nature of the offer/product
• Brands are earned: sometimes good, sometimes bad
• Brands are developed through PR and word of mouth
• Brands must be experiential
• Branding is the art of differentiation
• You must jettison the generic
• Say no to focus groups
• Find your niche, your specialty
• It takes a village
Wrexham is currently a Town. The Council are applying for City status. I don’t see the Town that way. It isn’t like Chester in terms of grandeur and its tourist offer. It’s a good border Anglo-Welsh town which serves the needs of the Community but is scarcely the type of magnet that we know exist across the North West and Wales. When people visit Wrexham, especially the Town, they experience a basic offer of functional value. Wrexham lacks outlets offering high fashion and is probably better known for its range of Charity shops these days than it would like.
Some might think I’m being critical. I’m not. I actually love Charity shops and like many will trawl around this Town for hours trying to spot a bargain. I know many people like to buy fashionable clothing and the like. They go further afield. All my requirements are sold in Wrexham and at reasonable prices. If one element of Branding is Differentiation, the Town theme seems quite appropriate when I think of Chester and Manchester. We are local and convenient. Their pitch is different.
Many people try to bamboozle the good folk of the Town, often by playing to their sense of self-worth. One awful insult doing the rounds is that Wrexham folk don’t seek City status because they lack a sense of confidence about the Town’s status. What tosh.
When Brooks talked about Branding his last two points were about finding your own niche and ensuring that you have the support of the “village” in your Branding decision. Most people that I speak to think that applying for City status juxtaposes badly with the reality of the Town that they see before them and reject the thinking behind it.
Many folk realise that the age of Bricks and Mortar multiple retailing is coming to an end or, if not, is plateauing. Most also appreciate that if there is to be a turnaround of Town centres, the impetus will come less from London and more from the locality. It will be Independent specialists who will plug the gaps and these will be more service orientated than in the past, less goods-centric. Cafes, Hair dressing and Arts linked offer will emerge (amongst others).
The Manchester Met were brought into Wrexham to advise on Retail reinvigoration. One of their sub-Reports (Markets Matter) points to the real value of a good Market structure in the revival of the Town High Street. We have dreadful Markets in Wrexham. Our outdoors Monday Market has been allowed to deteriorate to the nth degree. Our 3 indoor Markets were capable of great things with total reconfiguration a few years ago, though Ty Pawb has further complicated that possibility. Bury, Altrincham and several other Towns have adapted their Markets to the needs of 2021 (and the future). We can do the same.
Towns, Markets and the Independent sector roll off the tongue in one sentence. Wrexham is not a City. It’s a TownNovember 8, 2021 at 7:51 pm #211253
But contrast Wrexham with, say, Mold and Oswestry – these both “feel” like market towns. Wrexham feels too big and spread out to have this feel.November 8, 2021 at 9:50 pm #211256
You make reference to Bury Market as a market to replicate. I can see why you have used them as an example but as their market offer includes 350 stalls under one roof I’d be interested to learn your thoughts on how we could achieve such an offer here in Wrexham?
November 8, 2021 at 10:57 pm #211258
- This reply was modified 4 weeks, 1 day ago by Phil Wynn.
Great question Phil
As with the whole Branding exercise, you can only set the scene and then let time, hard work, vision and great organisation lead you to the promised land.
The first thing is to try and envision a realistic Town centre in your head, a brilliant Market and a strong Independent sector. The current template is a mess and badly organised. To be honest, you need to start again and work towards a broad stroke objective.
Firstly, you have a 4 “Market” infra-structure (Ty Pawb included) if you add-in the outside Market. Try to look at other Towns and see if a template lends itself to Wrexham. Calculate the available demographic. Re-configure the entire set up so that each component of the framework offers a different niche or niches to the pre-selected demographic(s). A strong example would be to utilise Ty Pawb to offer an Arts and Crafts MARKET to the Wrexham/Tourist public pivoting on an in-house pottery, printing facilities, indigenous clothing manufacture, jewellery, et al. This would take the Arts emphasis from performance to production and selling. The second area (say the Butchers Market) would re-gravitate towards food (though I would be wary of the Access issues which would have to be dealt with). I would relocate the Monday Market to the High Street which would be strategically reconfigured to offer such a Branding provision, whilst providing an extra mechanism in linking the Town up with Eagles Meadow (which will implode without similar). Whilst the High street would be the fulcrum of outdoors Market activity other streets like Chester Street could be added to the mix.
The scenario outlined above wouldn’t give you the Bury dynamic….but it would be a start…..and would be feasible. The problem that I’ve always seen with the mention of copious amounts of money to be thrown at reconfiguring the Markets was that it was all random scatter. Several other things. Markets need strategic management. Stalls and traders have differing costs associated with them and have to have different modes of encouragement to attract them. The one size fits all Estates approach in Wrexham is so myopic that its off the radar. For example. For me to fit up my type of shop requires a considerable up-front Investment. To commit, my type of Trader needs careful nurturing (etc)
Go to Ellesmere or Durham if you want to see good Markets. Stalls need to be high to create the unique Market atmosphere, walk-ways need to be narrow, symmetry is the enemy of the aesthetic.
Re-brand the town, reconfigure the Markets, attend to alternative scene setting exercises, light the blue touch paper……boomNovember 9, 2021 at 9:34 am #211259
A major problem is the level of disagreement and despite Alun and others saying retailers are up for making a go the lack of their representation at crucial meetings such as the Town centre Forum, Wrexham Business Group etc shows the lack of joined up working. It is years since there was a vibrant Town centre Forum with really good cross section of businesses all working together. If the businesses cant unite then what chance is there really for the Town. It is the same few people (about 6) who have put a lot of effort into this but been bashed time and time again by businesses noit getting off their buxms to make a difference.November 9, 2021 at 1:30 pm #211289
I don’t think this is a matter relating to the input of the traders (though I take JaneJ’s point in general terms). This is about WCBC adopting an intellectually coherent approach to the development of the Town (not City) in a difficult period. They’ve had input in the past from the Manchester Met, and there are lots of towns to observe and learn from.
Traders of all shapes and sizes will have any number of opinions about any number of subjects, but the idea of Rebranding a Town (with all of its implications) really is a job for in-house bodies armed with impact assessments and models of likely development. I sense a wing and a prayer approach at the moment based around the instincts of individual Councillors. This is no way to make major decisions.November 10, 2021 at 12:29 pm #211346
Alunh, A good post with excellent suggestions as to the way forward. Let us hope that WCBC take on board those suggestions, and we move forward more quickly than the last five years.
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