Work across the BID community starts again in earnest after the summer break: we have a government review of BIDs, 13 ballots coming up, and the data on footfall and the economy suggests the need for much work in the run up to the various festive seasons.

Ballot data is slim because of the summer – and we congratulate Nairn, Clevedon and Our Colchester for their successes.

Some good news on government support, as Jeremy Hunt, speaking in his constituency in Farnham, said “BIDs have had some incredible success stories nationally in the past 20 years since legislation introduced them, and indeed you may well have visited some across the country without even realising.. There have been hundreds across the UK, and according to the British BIDs survey they raised more than £140 million in levies – which is obviously music to the ears of a chancellor! And what’s more is that this money is completely controlled by local businesses, who use the funding in the specific ways that will most benefit them – without any government ever getting hold of it”. The full story is here

We are also doing much work at the moment, along with colleagues at ATCM, The BID Foundation and the IPM, responding to the government review of BIDs that was raised in the House of Lords back in July, by Baroness Scott, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities). The joint response has been submitted, and conversations continue with DLUCH. We hope to report back soon.

Sadly, Dehenna Davison has stood down as levelling up minister, saying chronic migraines have made it “difficult, if not impossible” to do the job. Ms Davison, the MP for Bishop Aukland, had already said she will stand down from parliament at the next election. Jacob Young is taking over her role.

The recession seems to be coming, with some grim stories across the sector. The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) is suggesting that Britain’s retailers are planning to axe jobs and cut investment over the coming months as signs emerge of a deepening slump in spending by consumers. The CBI said in its barometer that retail activity had fallen for a fourth month in a row in August to stand at its lowest level since March 2021.

The boss of John Lewis has called for a royal commission review into the UK’s ailing high streets, arguing that mass stores closures, crime and antisocial behaviour are blighting Britain’s town centres. Dame Sharon White, the chair of John Lewis Partnership, which owns the John Lewis and Waitrose chains, said 6,000 shops in Britain had closed over the last five years and a rethink was needed to make town centres “once more welcoming places where people want to live, work and spend time". "Too many towns and cities are shells of their former selves,” White said “Boarded-up shops left vacant, dwindling numbers of banks and post offices. And in their place seemingly endless rows of vaping and charity shops.” Simon Jenkins compared the current feeble government responses to France, Germany or Italy, where the picture was so different, and accused the government this week of killing the high street. BIDs are, of course, as Chancellor Hunt made clear, a vital response to so much of this, with businesses putting their own money into innovation and change.

There are increasing concerns over business crime. Shop thefts have more than doubled in the past three years, reaching 8m in 2022 and costing retailers £953m, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC). The Association of Convenience Stores (ACS), the voice of more than 33,500 shops, said it has recorded its highest-ever levels of shoplifting over the last year, with 1.1m incidents reported to the police. BIDs are at the heart of much of this, with most BIDs – over 60% in our last survey – investing in business crime reduction, and an estimated 25% of BID spending going into crime reduction – some £30 million a year. British BIDs are working closely with national levy payers such as Tesco’s on this, as well as the BCRP National Standards Board.

Footfall across UK retail destinations edged up by a marginal 0.2% over the month from July to August. According to figures from MRI Springboard, here, footfall across all types of destinations rose annually by 1.9% in August compared to 2.1% in July and 4.2% in June. Diane Wehrle, marketing and insights director at MRI Springboard, said: “Footfall across UK retail destinations rose by just 0.2% from July to August 2023. However, this was not sufficiently large enough to offset the month-on-month drop of 0.3% from June, which was the first month-on-month drop of footfall in July for 14 years… Q4 will lead to even more cautious buying behaviour, and a challenging trading landscape for UK retail over the festive period.”

On the other hand, as ever, the story is more nuanced than that. There are signs of positivity elsewhere. While spending growth may be slowing, Cardlytics data suggests that consumers are merely becoming more selective. Indeed, spending in ‘experience’ sectors such as dining, and travel remained intact. In particular, spending on quick-service restaurants grew 5% from the previous quarter and saw a 21% year-on-year increase. Moreover, Britain has truly become a nation of food lovers: spending on eating out has taken a firmer foothold in people’s wallets than ever before, with the share of spend for restaurants overall increasing the most since we started tracking consumer spend. Cardlytics are also seeing signs of strength when it comes to airlines (+9%), hotels (+6%) and travel (+6%). It is clear that consumers are willing to spend in categories that can create shareable, memorable experiences.

Pubs, community halls, gardens, sports clubs and other treasured locations across the UK can benefit from up to £2 million in government funding each through the Community Ownership Fund, which is open again for applications here. The fund gives local people the chance to save prized community assets that are at risk of being lost forever and keep them open for future generations to enjoy. To encourage as many applications as possible and make the process easier, the money available for applicants has doubled to £2 million, and the amount organisations need to match funds has decreased from 50% to 20%.

The end of tax-free shopping for tourists has plagued the retail industry since it was axed at the end of 2020 as part of the government’s Brexit plans. The initiative was set to return last year when the country’s short-lived chancellor of the exchequer Kwasi Kwarteng announced he would reinstate the scheme during the Autumn Budget of 2022. A month later the policy was scrapped by his replacement Jeremy Hunt, who said “not proceeding with this scheme is worth around £2bn a year”. However, Liberty chief executive Adil Mehboob Khan says the decision “turned out to be a remarkable own goal” with the UK losing out on billions of pound worth of spend as overseas visitors head to mainland Europe for their shopping instead. In fact, the Centre for Economics and Business Research has calculated that the “tourist tax” is costing the UK £10.7bn in lost GDP and deterring two million tourists from visiting the country per year.

Leading hospitality trade bodies have united to highlight the untapped potential of hospitality to drive economic growth, as new survey data from CGA Insight on behalf of the sector shows that 61% of hospitality businesses are experiencing staff shortages and widely reduced their trading hours and days as a result. The data, collected by the British Beer and Pub Association, the British Institute of Innkeeping, Hospitality Ulster and UK Hospitality shows that almost 40% are reducing trading hours. Of those, hours have reduced by up to 74% midweek and 42% at the weekend. That loss of trading has seen two-thirds report a sales decline of up to 25%.

As many of you will know, the National BID survey went out last week, in a personal email to each of the 335 BID managers and chief executives across the British Isles. Now in its 17th year, it is unique in allowing an annual snapshot to be taken for policy makers, both local and national; it allows BIDs and their Boards to benchmark themselves and identify key performance indicators; it allows us to advise government; it allows national and local levy payers to see if they are getting all the services that they should, and finally it allows new and developing BIDs to design their services and operations in the most effective fashion. If you are the BID leader and you haven’t had the email, please let me know as soon as possible. We will report back on both the survey and our response to the government's review of BIDs at the National Conference on November 2nd at Euston Square.

Professor Christopher Turner, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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