It's good to talk: joined up conversations boost Maidenhead's fortunes

Both large and small retailers are now better engaging with each other in Maidenhead for the benefit of their high street having been brought closer together by the Healthy High Street Champions.

Summary

Business in the Community’s Healthy High Street campaign has reignited engagement from some of the national retailers in the town centre which in turn has generated more activity from smaller businesses in the town. There is a greater sense of community from town centre businesses and they are working together better to support the work of the Town Partnership.

- Steph James,
Maidenhead town manager
The Healthy High Street champions from Boots UK, The Co-operative, M&S, and Santander provided support to the Maidenhead Town Partnership to better engage with large retail businesses in the area through the reinvigoration of the retail forum, as they have a vital role to play in helping regenerate the fortunes of Maidenhead’s town centre.

What needed to be done?

Maidenhead suffers from higher than average retail vacancy rates and declining footfall due to competition from other local shopping destinations, such as Windsor, Reading and Slough, as well as the recent redevelopment of Bishop Court in Taplow.

The Maidenhead Town Partnership identified they needed to rebuild the faith of the local community that Maidenhead can once again be a desirable place to live, work and shop, with a thriving town centre, and as a result fill the empty shops and increase the number of people using town facilities.

Plan of action

The Maidenhead high street championsHigh Street champions Gamal King from Boots UK and M&S’s Richard Green worked with Steph James, Maidenhead Town Centre Manager, and Jane Wright from the Nicholson’s Centre to formulate an action plan for the town based on increasing footfall, reducing empty units and generating jobs. (Pictured right.) In addition, the Co-Operative supported with the compilation of a strategic marketing plan for the town.

Following an initial visit to Maidenhead, the high street champions identified that dialogue between the Town Centre Manager and large retail businesses was historically lacking and needed to be improved in order to achieve the desired objectives.

An idea to help reverse this situation was to re-energise Maidenhead’s retail forum by developing discussion topics which resonated well with the large retail businesses, such as plans for Christmas activity and peak trading hours.

Achievements

Following the joint work between the high street champions and the local town centre manager, the retail forum has been reinvigorated and welcomed more than 40 delegates from both large and small retailers at the first meeting of the new format.

Retail Forum meetings have been reinvigorated in MaidenheadSubsequent meetings have seen continuing high-levels of attendance and key outcomes and targets have been identified, including:

  • Establishing a new Business Forum, which will meet on a regular basis

  • Large retailers to increase their opening hours during the evening and encourage other smaller retail businesses to do the same

  • Creation of an events calendar to allow retailers of all sizes to know what each other is doing and then identify opportunities to work together to improve business. Events will be underwritten by Maidenhead Council, with large retailers expected to provide support to promote these events

  • Businesses have been asked to share performance data in order to feed into a wider discussion around the benefits of adopting free parking in the town centre

  • Aileen Walters from the Co-operative marketing team has met with the town team to support the development and implementation of a five-year marketing strategy, ‘Maidenhead is Open for Business’, which is planned for launch in January 2015.

Richard Green, M&S’s Maidenhead Store Manager, said: “We had really positive Business Forum meetings, where I’ve been able to get a lot of the smaller businesses working together which feels far more joined up for the town.

“As an example, through the Business Forum we have got retailers signed up to take part in two nights of evening trade finishing at 8pm. This is a significant step forward for the town and hope this will be developed as a wider strategy into the New Year.”

Next steps

Going forward, all partners recognise they need to continue to keep up the healthy dialogue between both large and small retailers. The Business Forum, supported by the Maidenhead Town Partnership, will play an important role in becoming the mouthpiece for all retail businesses in Maidenhead.

The Co-Operative has volunteered their central marketing team to provide further support in developing the longer term marketing plan and in turn The Maidenhead Town Partnership has also been offered support from the Chartered Institute of Marketing.

Plans have also been discussed around how Maidenhead can pull customer footfall into the centre. For example, measures were undertaken to relocate market traders from a purpose-built market space to a central position on the high street.