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News - 26 July 2012
How do we protect independents?

Council’s scrutiny committee report on independent retail

The city council took evidence from a variety of expert witnesses and interested parties looking at how the city’s considerable retail offer could be enhanced and protected.

The recommendations from the report included the need to demonstrate that the impact of increased parking charges on the retail sector has been researched and understood prior to changes being introduced with the research and the rationale being published.

The Council should also increase the flexibility of its approach to parking, utilising special offers and targeted support through parking regulations to promote specific retail areas.

There was evident support for a Park & Ride scheme but finding a location for it now that the national park has swallowed up the most suitable site [Braypool] will prove impossible and it has been removed from the most recent draft of the City Plan [see earlier story].

The committee concluded that flexibility on the part of landlords with regard to rent levels, short-term leases, allowing pop-up shops and individual rent plans can have considerable benefits. The council as landlord offers flexibility for its leaseholders; it should seek to promote this best practice to other landlords.

Coordinated business support and advice for retailers is a priority building on the work of the current Business Improvement District together with responsibility for developing and implementing a citywide retail strategy.

The role of Traders Associations and the BID in supporting and securing benefits for their members is very evident; the Council should work with and support such groups. The council should be in touch with large stores, reminding them of opportunities for their increased support to independents across the city.

Ways for improving communication with retailers should be developed; this could include a single council contact point for retailers that allows retailers to access all the information and support they require such as rent reviews, trading standards, etc

Larger multiples should be invited to join local traders’ associations and support other local retailers with training, for example marketing, age-restricted sales, etc.

The Council should explore planning options to exploit new ‘localism’ powers to support retailers through increased flexibility and responsiveness.

Street markets should be developed only where they are supported by a majority of local retailers. Because street trading controls cannot regulate the goods for sale, great care must be given to decisions permitting new street markets. Existing retailers need to be protected from stalls obstructing shop entrances. The Council should lobby government for increased powers to regulate street markets.

The marketing of Brighton and Hove needs to ensure that it makes the most of its retail offer. Retailers felt that they were often the poor relation on many marketing campaigns.

The benefits of retail quarters should be investigated further as a means for promoting different areas of the city and providing them with additional support.

The need for an on-line presence for independent retailers is clear; support is needed to ensure that the capacity to develop this exists.

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