A very full Insight in the month that really starts winter and the holiday seasons, with Halloween, Bonfire night, Thanksgiving, Diwali and Christmas all taking much BID energy and creativity, along with much government activity.

BIDs and Ballot data

Congratulations to twenty BIDs on their ballot outcomes: West Frizrovia, Godalming, Farnham, Salisbury, Ilford, Andover, Eastleigh, Twickenham, Colmore Business District, Brixton, NE1, The Junction, Otley, Kirkintilloch Town Cent, St Ives, Rochdale Town Centre, Dornoch, KIPPA, Skipton and Blackburn Town Centre all had successful ballot results. Unfortunately Explore Suffolk was unsuccessful. Alongside these results is a great piece in Property Week from Ros Morgan on BIDs: “Over the last decade, business improvement districts (BIDs) have emerged as influential catalysts of community-driven initiatives, promoting local businesses’ capacity to elevate and improve their surroundings…BIDs are more than just superficial entities; they strategically infuse districts with vitality and a positive image, with the aim of increasing visitor traffic and, consequently, strengthening the local economy. The true influence and value of a BID lies in its ability to provide a strategic framework for businesses, convene the local community and stakeholders behind a shared vision and generate an enhanced revenue stream that serves the entire area, underpinning the delivery of essential services”.

There was a time when the spring budget was the key economic driver; it is now the Autumn Statement. Businesses were hoping Chancellor Hunt was going to deal with some of the pressing issues of labour shortages and the forthcoming business rates inflation factor. What has been offered is a £9bn permanent tax break for business by way of the permanent extension of “full expensing”. The scheme allows a company to immediately deduct all of its spending on IT equipment, plant or machinery from taxable profits. Officials claimed Hunt’s permanent extension would give the UK one of the world’s most generous capital allowance regimes and the “biggest business tax cut in modern British history”. The chancellor also announced streamlined planning rules, support for artificial intelligence and fast-growing industries. He abolished Class 2 national insurance and cut the main employee National Insurance rate 2 percentage points from 12% to 10%. Hunt also confirmed an increase in the national living wage from £10.42 to £11.44. The Chancellor will freeze the small business multiplier and will extend the 75% discount on business rates up to £110,000 for retail hospitality and leisure businesses for another year. Hunt says these measures will save the average independent shop over £20,000 and the average independent pub over £12,800 next year.

Festive and Experience

Santa’s elves are out again – and there are more than ever, each keen to lure visitors into rival magical realms. Britain is enjoying a boom in upmarket immersive experiences but fake snow, pointy elf hats and faux-wooden chalets are now the very least of it. In an odd festive arms race, competitors have entered the Christmas market with a range of increasingly ornate, wintery worlds of wonder, featuring light trails, special effects and often a full supporting cast and crew of actors and technicians. All are setting their stages for what is promised to be the twinkliest ever tour, or the most atmospheric, glittery landscape yet encountered on Earth.

The last Saturday before Christmas (23 December), known as Super Saturday, is predicted to be the busiest in-store shopping day of the entire 2023 peak trading season, rising from the UK’s 3rd busiest day for Christmas shopping in 2022. According to Sensormatic Solutions, while the Saturday of the Black Friday weekend (24 November), is expected to be the 3rd busiest day for in-store footfall during 2023 peak trading, Black Friday itself failed to make it into the top 5 busiest days. Just 27% of UK consumers plan to head in-store on Black Friday this year and less than a fifth intend to shop for deals online on Black Friday, according to the data. This compares to 38% of shoppers who planned to buy Christmas gifts online on Amazon Prime Big Deals Day last week.

Christmas adverts have started appearing on TV. While some of them tug on viewers’ heartstrings with tales of lost mittens and cuddly toys, others take on a playful tone with singing oven gloves and dancing dolls. This year there is also an array of big-name celebrities making appearances, from Michael Bublé to Ryan Reynolds. Retail Gazette looks at all of retail’s Christmas ads thus far.

A new “zero-tolerance” plan is set to be agreed between ministers, police and retailers in a bid to crack down on the current shoplifting epidemic. Police chiefs unveiled the plan as the number of incidents top more than 1,000 per day. It comes as the police have been accused by retail bosses of not taking the crime seriously enough and not responding to their reports. As part of the plans, shoplifting will have a dedicated national unit – Operational Opal – that will investigate cases from an organised crime perspective. Last week was Safer Business Action Week, where the National Business Crime Centre, police and partners across the country joined together to tackle business crime in their communities. The week of action involved Business Reductions Partnerships (BCRPs), Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) and the private security industry working with local police forces to deliver a focused operation with joint patrols, the targeted intervention of offenders and a range of crime prevention activity including raising awareness with the public. The week also promoted the ShopKind campaign, which signals to everybody how important this issue is and reminds customers to consider their behaviour towards shop staff. Chris Philp The Minister of State, Home Department made clear that Retail crime, including shoplifting and violence and abuse, is not acceptable and the Government takes this issue very seriously.

The Levelling-up and Regeneration Act received Royal Assent last month, meaning a major new piece of legislation has now entered the statute books.The decline in high street retail was one of the many factors that prompted the Government to introduce the new legislation, with the purpose to “drive local growth, empower local leaders to regenerate their areas, and ensure everyone can share in the United Kingdom’s success.” The Act includes provisions to give local authorities the power to put empty high-street properties into mandatory rental auctions, and, as of last week, local authorities have officially been granted those powers. The measures introduced are novel and radical, and the impact of high-street rental auctions (HSRA) on the commercial property market are potentially wide-ranging. Under the Act, local authorities can conduct a HSRA, if a “final letting notice” is in force and the property in question remains vacant.

An All Party Parliamentary Group has produced a report suggesting we are at a crucial moment for England’s ‘left behind’ neighbourhoods, and decisions made in the next few years will define their prospects for decades to come. They say that decisive action is now urgently needed to save levelling up from the strategic drift which threatens to waste the significant political will generated in recent years to transform the fortunes of these places. To be successful and sustainable, levelling up must: Be led by local people – the experts best placed to know what needs to be done to improve local outcomes, Reflect local needs and circumstances – not follow a national template, Entrust decision-making – including funding – to communities, not Whitehall or the town hall and Invest long-term in communities – to build capacity, social infrastructure, opportunity and resilience. This is reinforced by some serious academic work from Harvard University.

The third round of funding has been announced with £1 billion awarded today to 55 transformational projects in communities across the UK, many of which have BIDs. These include upgrades for the fishing sector and sustainable jobs in Torbay, breathing new life into treasured heritage and culture buildings in three former mining communities in Doncaster and essential funding needed to transform Blackpool town centre’s transport network. As part of this, £150 million will be allocated to develop better transport links across the country with £825 million to kick-start regeneration in town centres. This will create new jobs and opportunities, power economic growth and revitalise communities.

Amazingly, there is a significant underspend in the £10.6 bn levelling funds, apparently arising from money being handed over too late to spend, a lengthy and bureaucratic process and a hollowing-out of council expertise. The shared prosperity fund, one pillar of the government’s efforts to boost the most deprived areas of the UK, is designed to provide £2.6 bn by 2025.However, 95% of the local authorities that received funding in 2022-23 were unable to spend all of their share. Across the UK, 43% of £429m in funding was not spent. Not a single council in the north of England, Scotland or Wales spent its full investment.

The Bank of England has warned the economy will be on the brink of recession in an election year and signalled it intends to keep interest rates high for an extended period to tackle stubborn inflationary pressures. After holding rates unchanged at 5.25% for a second consecutive time – the highest level since the 2008 financial crisis – Threadneedle Street said the risks from war in the Middle East and domestic inflationary pressures would force it to keep borrowing costs high despite a worsening outlook for growth.

As ever British BIDs continues to train and develop, with the British BIDs Academy the platform for the training and development of BID staff in the UK. We host a multitude of training courses on a wide variety of subjects, covering all aspects of a BIDs life-span and suitable for all levels of expertise. Our content is consistently reviewed and improved, meaning there will always be something new to learn on a course and all of our courses are brought to you by expert professionals in their field. At the same time, over 135 BID staff have now completed the Certificate in BID Management and some 40 BID CEOs have completed the Diploma in BID Leadership.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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