August's Insight from Chris Turner


August is a time of holidays and for many BIDs across the country that means massively increased footfall, and a dramatic return to normal. Work we are doing with TownandPlace.AI, who are a provider of footfall, visitor behaviour and tourism data for over 2,300 town centres across the UK, suggests that as Covid restrictions are relaxed or removed, tourist visitor numbers have grown by 36.83% for coastal BID town centres in June. Growth in tourist visitors has been strongest in Gorleston-on-Sea which experienced a near 700% growth and four out of the top ten town centres were in Devon and Cornwall! British BIDs' links with TownandPlace.AI means that they will let BIDs view the latest July 21 footfall, tourism and visitor catchment data for your BID town centre, if you click on the link and register for a 14-day access pass.

Ballots are starting to slow down over the summer period, and we congratulate Morecambe BID, BID St Andrews, Tavistock BID, Bexleyheath and All About Barrhead on their successful recent results. We are looking forward to four more results in September. During the Covid pandemic there were major concerns over ballots, which were in the end unfounded; since last March 65 ballots have resulted in 61 successful outcomes and four failures. Six new BIDs were successful in their ballots during the pandemic. Ballot turnout in the pandemic wason average39.6% and theballotresults byrateablevaluewere80.4% and by number81.8%.This is a better performance than normal, with an averageimprovement ofsome 6.6 percentage points in RV and7.8 percentage points in number compared to pre pandemic results.Turnout was less, but surprisingly only by 6.2 percentage points. At the moment the total BID community in the British Isles 2021 totals 322, seven fewer than last year. The quarterly Bb BID Barometer will be coming out next week with updated data on all things BIDs.

The government has a new management programme that offers practical management training with one-to-one mentorship, aimed at senior leaders of small and medium businesses and delivered across the UK by leading business schools. Useful for both BID managers and our levy payers, the programme costs £750 and is 90% subsidised by the government as part of the government’s Plan for Jobs. Designed to be manageable alongside full-time work, the 12-week programme offers a wide range of modules, including financial management, strategies for growth and innovation, leading high-performance teams, and approaches to digital adoption. Applications and further information are here https://helptogrow.campaign.gov.uk/.

There is much interest and concern over commercial rents as the pandemic eases, and many of our levy payers are deeply worried. MHCLG has published a policy statement providing further clarifications on the commercial tenant protection. The Ministry has also published the outcomes and analysis of the responses received to the Commercial rents and COVID-19 consultation and this can be seen here. Legislation will be introduced to support the orderly resolution of rental payments accrued by commercial tenants during the pandemic. This will ring-fence rent debt accrued from March 2020 for tenants who have been impacted by Covid-19 business closures until restrictions are removed for their sector and introduce a system of binding arbitration to be undertaken between landlords and tenants. This is to be used as a last resort, after bilateral negotiations have been undertaken and only where landlords and tenants cannot otherwise come to a resolution.

Many of these issues have been raised by Bill Grimsey in his latest review Against All Odds, where he suggests independent high street businesses could face a “tsunami of closures” after their debt climbed to almost five times the level it was before the Covid-19 pandemic, as shops, hairdressers, bars and restaurants battle to survive. About 150,000 small businesses have racked up £2.3bn in debt, up from £500m before the pandemic, based on government-backed loans and not including rent debt, and he believes at least a third of small businesses were facing default, with a knock-on effect for high streets and town centres around the country. The full report is here and a synopsis is also available here.

For many of us managing BIDs it is the service sector that is mission critical,  and the UK financial services industry seems to have returned back to its pre-pandemic level and even added two percentage points of growth since February 2020, more info here. Banks and insurance companies may have slimmed down their staffing levels, but customers have kept borrowing and saving, making the sector one of the few to have exceeded previous levels of activity. As the UK’s mighty services industry, which generates about three-quarters of national income, returns to form, it is clear banks and insurers stand at the more resilient end of a spectrum that has seen some firms achieve full fitness with staggering speed while others stutter back to life. Estate agents are another example, having brought in commissions following tax cuts that sparked a surge in home buying. The transport industry has also bounced on the back of an internet delivery boom and the IT sector is significantly larger than at the beginning of 2020, following the same new-found dependency on all things online. However, other sectors have languished as restrictions either forced them to close or kept customers away – among them the office services industry, which has suffered a deep recession since the order for people to work at home pulled millions of workers from their office chairs. The latest official health check of the services industry came out on Friday and showed that despite a rebound in April and May, hotel and restaurant income was 18% below where it stood in February 2020, and the arts, entertainment and recreation sector remained 26% down on where it was 17 months ago, more info here.

As we plan our British BIDs 2021 National BIDs Conference at The Leadenhall Building in the heart of the City of London, the focus of conversation at the conference this year will be centred around economy recovery, sustainability and repurposing. The pandemic has accelerated the changes that we are seeing in our places, but we believe that BIDs have a key role and opportunity in ensuring that they are both fit for purpose and future-proof. The 2021 National BIDs Conference will look at UK and global economic trends that will affect post-Covid recovery, the future of work and the impact this has on our places, as well as the continued social, cultural and business challenges of digital and online provision. We will also examine how BIDs are increasingly focusing on sustainable place management and delivering transformational projects. We will explore the resilience and repurposing of places and spaces as well as the huge potential in both the physical retail and digital world for change and innovation. Do please make sure that you join us, details are here https://britishbids.info/national-bids-conference-2021.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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