Brighton & Hove has secured the Labour Party conference for 2008 and 2009. This is great news for the city’s hotels and restaurants. And maybe it doesn’t have to be bad news for retailers.
Each event at the Brighton Centre is expected to attract 25,000 delegates, exhibitors and media, spending £20m per conference with city businesses. Retailers need to start thinking now about how to ensure they get their slice of the action.
It is likely that the conferences will disrupt normal trade by restricting access to the city centre. But there is an opportunity to turn this inevitable situation to advantage by targeting the delegates directly.
The Business Forum will ensure that all delegates receive a copy of the Shopping and Eating Guide. There is no reason why this guide should not include a supplement offering special deals for delegates. There may also be an opportunity to promote the city’s shopping areas through posters around the conference venue.
Traders could also collaborate on extending or changing opening times. If people accept that daytime trading will be slow then maybe they could open a little later and stay open into the evening. This way they will maximise their catchment potential.
There may also be a case for encouraging regular customers to do their shopping before or after the week of the event to ensure they don’t just go somewhere else because they are caught short.
There is no doubt that the longer-term implications for the whole city are good and that the events are well worth hosting with the publicity alone worth millions of pounds. Conference organisers want to come to Brighton because of its reputation as an exciting place to be and retail has played a key part in building that reputation.
Council leader Simon Burgess who led the bidding delegation said, “We score well for two reasons. Delegates love the place as it’s great fun. Conference organisers like us because we’re professional and helpful.
“These bids are put together carefully by the council’s convention bureau and partners in the local visitor industry. It’s a united front with various bodies working together for the good of the city. Around 13,000 jobs are dependent on visitors here so this is great news for the economy.”
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