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Agenda Item No

 

The Vale of Glamorgan Council

 

Scrutiny (Economy and Environment):  1st November, 2011

 

Report of the Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration

 

Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum and Town Centre Loyalty Card Schemes

 

Purpose of the Report

1.             To advise Scrutiny Committee of the work of the Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum and update Committee on its progress to date and to report on the request to consider a town centres Loyalty Card Scheme.

Recommendations

1.             That Committee notes the value of the Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum as a focus for engagement and involvement on retailing and town centre issues.

2.             That Committee notes the situation regarding Town Centre Loyalty Card schemes and that it is not feasible or desirable for the Council to administer a Town Centre Loyalty Card Scheme in future.

Reasons for the Recommendations

1.             The Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum provides a focus for meaningful discussion.

2.             Town Centre Loyalty schemes are already in existence and operated on a commercial basis and the Council does not have adequate resources to administer similar or alternative loyalty schemes.  Likewise local schemes are better administered at a specific town centre level with targeting to reflect the characteristics of that town centre

Background

2.             The report will address four specific elements, as follows:

                   Firstly, the report deals with the recently established Retailers Forum.  This includes a breakdown of how the Forum operates and an overview of how it intends to assist town centre retailers;

                   The report covers a "live" example of a loyalty scheme run by the Penarth Greening Group including an evaluation of the project to date provided by the group's representative, Mrs. Tricia Griffiths;

                   Thirdly, the report provides details of schemes already supported in the rural Vale by the Creative Rural Communities team (CRC) that indirectly assist town centres through various avenues.  Rural Community Action funded a voucher scheme run in 2007 in Llantwit Major.  However, under the new programme, there are currently no projects or grants within Creative Rural Communities that could support a town centre loyalty card scheme per se.

                   Finally, the report provides an update on the situation relating to the intended Town Centres Strategy and other related matters.

Relevant Issues and Options

Vale of Glamorgan Retailers Forum.

3.             At the Scrutiny Committee meeting of 24th May, 2011 (Minute No. 59) a request was made to report on the Retailers Forum.

4.             The all Vale Forum was set up during 2010 at the request of the Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, Councillor Rhodri Traherne.  It was intended that the Forum would meet on a quarterly basis with a number of representatives from the retail sector of the four principal town centres within the Vale of Glamorgan.  As a consequence, the Forum meets every quarter and rotates its venue around the four Vale towns, Cowbridge, Barry and Llantwit Major are represented by their respective Chambers of Trade and Penarth has a healthy representation of retailers and interested parties.

5.             The quarterly agenda deals with issues relating to the four towns both generically and individually.  In this regard, it was clear from the outset that all four towns have their own unique selling points but would all have similar issues and that the Forum would provide an avenue for engagement and for raising issues and concerns upon which the Council would assist wherever it could.

6.             Some of the primary concerns that have come out of the four meetings held to date are business rates, future Council budget constraints which will impact upon town centres, restricted future Welsh Government business support, resulting from the Economic Renewal Programme and subsequent change in Minister and the future of the St. Athan MOD training site following the retreat of the METRIX consortium bid.

7.             The Round Table discussions have produced lively debates amongst the representatives and various action points are set for retailers, Council officers and Councillor Traherne, as Chair.  Feedback on the action points raised is always given at the next meeting to ensure that progress and momentum is maintained between each meeting.

8.             The general consensus amongst Forum members is that the format and structure of the meetings is working well with real progress being made between meetings to ensure key town centre issues are being dealt with.

Town Centre Loyalty Card Scheme

9.             Following the last report to Scrutiny Committee on 2nd November, 2010 (Minutes No. 598), Councillor Curtis requested a further report following the trial of the loyalty card scheme by Penarth Greening Group;  that consideration be given to such schemes and any other funding streams that may be available, for example via Creative Rural Communities.

Penarth Greening Group

10.        The scheme, which is organised by Gwyrddio Penarth Greening (GPG), has been running for just over a year.  Its purpose was, and is, to support local business and the local economy, to make the connection between using local shops and retaining the character of the town, to encourage people to use their cars less (cutting carbon emissions), to encourage people to buy local produce wherever possible, and as a by-product, to support the hidden social value that local shops provide that adds up to a healthy and vibrant community.  Shop in Penarth (SiP) has at any one time between 45 - 50 participating businesses.

11.        SiP has been subject to two independent evaluations:  one for food retailers and one for all participants.  Both showed that over 50% of retailers found the scheme very useful, a few found it difficult to promote because they were unsure about its aims, but the majority wanted it to continue. Over 30% of those asked in the street were aware of the scheme.  GPG has found the scheme very labour intensive (there are six volunteers involved) and is aware that many similar schemes have failed – even those that are funded to the tune of £30 – £35k a year.

12.        GPG has decided, largely on the basis of the enthusiasm of the majority of retailers, the evaluations, and the high profile it has given GPG, to continue with the scheme but on a modified basis.  They are currently creating a unified ‘brand’ which they hope will be more memorable, and they intend to re-launch SiP in November with greater emphasis on attractive offers, more eye-catching articles, greater use of Facebook, the web and an e-newsletter.  If able, they will organise periodic £10 SiP vouchers which may be found at SiP outlets, and they will involve retailers in their food festival and other events, where appropriate.

13.        They are abandoning the monthly update of offers and are working on a rather retro-style, simple leaflet promoting Penarth as the place to shop with hand-drawn maps, information on shops and major attractions.  This will be widely available and, if funds allow, made available beyond Penarth. All funds raised from the sale of cards will continue to be put back into the scheme.  They are fortunate in having some excellent people with the right skills to work on the website and designs etc., but there is still much to do. 

14.        The Group want to put more emphasis on retailers taking greater ownership for making the scheme work with the eventual aim that they will run it themselves.  However, they understand that many appreciate having an objective, non profit-making outside agency involved which they trust.

Creative Rural Communities (CRC)

15.        A breakdown of similar schemes run by CRC is detailed below:

Llantwit Major - Loyalty Scheme / Voucher Book

16.        In 2007, through the former Rural Community Action programme (RCA) in partnership with the town centre manager supported a voucher scheme for retailers in Llantwit Major. This was a small pilot project with limited success.  The scheme was initiated following a request by the Llantwit Chamber of Trade who wanted to stimulate footfall and increase turnover for the town's retailers.  The cheque book scheme had been operated on a nationwide basis and proved successful in many areas.  The key to its success is the creativity of the offer/discount i.e. how it encourages the shopper to make a return visit and also the proactivity of participating retailers to "sell" the scheme. 

17.        Tourism operators in the area and local retailers were provided with a quantity of books to circulate to their customers. Unfortunately, following an evaluation of the Scheme by the Chamber of Trade, the overall project had not proved successful as there was limited take up on the offers themselves and little evidence to show that shoppers had made return visits.  Therefore, no other voucher scheme has been trialled in other towns due to the Llantwit scheme not demonstrating a return on investment.

18.        In 2011, trends in voucher schemes lean very much towards web and smart phone based applications and it may be a case of retailers being made aware of such schemes. Several independent restaurants and shops in the rural vale have recently started to participate in these offers. e.g. Vouchercloud, Groupon, etc.  Web / Smartphone based vouchers will have less cost implications and are therefore more sustainable. From a resource perspective these would always be advantageous to participants.  Particularly because of their capacity to capture a voluminous audience via these sites and placing an "offer" is simple and cost effective.  The attractiveness of smart phone/ web based offers is much more in vogue today.  Hard copy vouchers are very much a thing of the past and would not necessarily feature in today's climate to such an extent, although some limited hard copy vouchers do still operate on a national level. 

19.        The evidence from the Penarth scheme and that of the trialled scheme at Llantwit Major, is that for schemes to be successful they need to be innovative and targeted specifically at individual town centres.  For this reason, it is unlikely that a generic scheme across the Vale of Glamorgan is to be acceptable given that the town centres in the Vale each have different characteristics, customer base and retail offer.  This is reflected in the recommendation before Members.

20.        Whilst considering the above, there are nevertheless schemes in existence in the Vale that go some way towards indirectly assisting businesses in the town centre.

Rural Attractions Voucher Scheme

21.        To ensure that accommodation providers are aware of the range of attractions available in the area, CRC invited them to experience first hand what is on offer so that they can pass on their knowledge to visitors to the Vale.  The voucher scheme offers entry to 20 top attractions and activities, a promotional flyer highlighting the attractions was produced and distributed to all the participating attractions and accommodation providers in the Vale.

22.        By encouraging business to business trading and cross promotion of local attractions, visitors to the Vale are introduced to the wealth of attractions on offer and are encouraged to make regular and longer trips to the area and hopefully visiting the town centres as they do so.

23.        Local food supply chains and slow tourism are emerging themes under Axis 4 led by the Creative Rural Communities Local Action Group. Projects may be developed under these themes by the Local Action Group. Again, any such projects would probably cover the whole rural area as opposed to being town specific and are developed using a bottom up approach.

 

Eisteddfod

24.        The Eisteddfod is coming to the Rural Vale in 2012. Some projects currently being developed under Axis 4 may be complete in time for this even.  Axis 4 projects tend to take longer to develop so some of the proposed Local Action Group projects may still be in development when the events is staged. The Eisteddfod is likely to be seen as an event to showcase such longer term schemes rather than short term projects specifically aimed at the week of the event.

25.        Whilst there is no specific budget or project within CRC to support a loyalty card scheme, other possible tourism projects developed through the Local Action Group (LAG) could directly benefit rural town centres.

Other related matters.

Town Centres - Strategy

26.        The Council has recently sought tenders from consultants to produce a framework for the future of the Vale of Glamorgan town centres, and it is anticipated that this work will progress either side of the Christmas period and will involve stakeholder engagement and involvement as part of the work to be delivered by consultants in identifying key issues and concerns.

Inquiry into the Regeneration of Town Centres

27.        Earlier this year the National Assembly for Wales, Enterprise and Business Committee established an Inquiry into the Regeneration of Town centres and asked a series of questions relating to the role of different agencies and organisations as well as the factors affecting the health and vitality of town centres.  The response of the Council, dated September 2011 to the Inquiry is attached at Appendix 1.

Resource Implications (Financial and Employment and Climate Change, if appropriate)

28.        As previously noted, a budget of circa £30k would be required to fund a traditional town centre loyalty card scheme.  With Council resources for this type of project being limited it is not feasible for the Council to administer a town centre loyalty card scheme in future.

29.        The required resources to cover the implementation and management of a loyalty card scheme within the Vale Council would need to be resources from within the Directorate.  Since the request to consider such a scheme, budgets have reduced within the Economic Development Unit in line with Council wide savings.

Legal Implications (to Include Human Rights Implications)

30.        There are no Legal implications resulting from this report.

Crime and Disorder Implications

31.        There are no Crime and Disorder implications resulting from this report.

Equal Opportunities Implications (to include Welsh Language issues)

32.        There are no Equal Opportunity implications resulting from this report.

Corporate/Service Objectives

33.        To work with local businesses to reflect the needs of each of the four principal town centres in the Vale of Glamorgan (EDL/A83).

Policy Framework and Budget

34.        This report is a matter for executive decision by Cabinet.

Consultation (including Ward Member Consultation)

35.        None, as this report deals with matters that relate to the Vale of Glamorgan as a whole.

Background Papers

National Assembly for Wales Inquiry into Regeneration of Town Centres.

 

Contact Officer

Emma Smith, Principal Officer for Economic Development Tel. No:  01446 704878

 

Officers Consulted

HoS, Planning & Transportation

Operational Manager, Countryside & Economic Projects

Operational Manager Legal Services

Finance Officer

 

Responsible Officer:

Rob Quick, Director of Environmental and Economic Regeneration