It is hoped that the example of a Belgian city could help to revive UK high streets, as a delegation of senior retail and local authority representatives travel to Roeselare to study how it has transformed its retail scene.
Organised by the National Retail Research Knowledge Exchange Centre (NRRKEC) at Nottingham Trent University, the tour will demonstrate how Roeselare has successfully implemented many of the recommendations in The Grimsey Review: An Alternative Future for the High Street – authored by NRRKEC Retail Director and former head of Iceland and Focus DIY, Bill Grimsey.
The Review suggests creating a policy at a local level that’s good for all, and highlights the need for a ‘business approach to set out the vision, the objectives and plans to develop each area as a unique vibrant community hub with an economic blueprint’.
The team from Roeselare will talk about their experience of introducing a number of innovative schemes which have had a positive impact on trade, with increased employment and footfall in retail and a reduction in shop vacancies. They include, among others; the development of shopping and parking apps; offering grants for businesses and entrepreneurs to move into the core shopping centre; creating living space above shops; introducing play incentives for families; refurbishing shop fronts and revitalising streets; monitoring the inoccupation rate; and creating an owner / manager forum.
The UK group consists of senior representatives from both the public and private sectors across the UK, including The Association of Convenience Stores, Rushcliffe Borough Council, UK Trade and Development, Scottish Development International, Gloucestershire LEP, The Institute of Place Management and SAID Business School, Oxford University.
During the visit they will share information about various UK high street and city centre initiatives they have been involved in and will meet representatives from West Flanders towns, listening to presentations on activities taking place to develop the city centres and retail offer in Bruges, Ostend, Kortrijk and Ypres. This will then be followed by time exploring Roeselare city centre talking to local retailers and consumers.
The NRRKEC at Nottingham Business School was recently established to help maximise the impact of academic research on the retail industry by ‘translating’ it into digestible summaries which capture the attention of retailers and retail policy makers.
Kim Cassidy, Professor of Services (Retail) Marketing at Nottingham Business School and Academic Director of the NRRKEC, is leading the tour with Bill Grimsey. She said: “The launch of the NRRKEC included a case study about Roeselare, which generated considerable interest not just from the audience, but from media in both Belgium and the UK. We can learn a lot from their success and this short study tour is the culmination of continued joint working and cooperation between the Mayor and City Council in Roeselare and the NRRKEC team.”
The full Grimsey Review can be found HERE