MaestroLIVE - future proofing for BIDs.
Here are few interesting notes about BIDs starting with a little history, a high street review in the UK and some comments on the internet.
BIDs have been around a while now, exist all over the world and represent enormous investment in visceral high street experiences. Here are few interesting notes about BIDs starting with a little history, a high street review in the UK and some comments on the internet.
The first ever Business Improvement District is 44 years old in 2016 and still going strong in Bloor Street, Toronto. First conceived in 1968, the BID (actually known as a Business Improvement Association in Canada) came into being as the city subway opened a near-by station giving Bloor Street shoppers direct and easy access to the bright lights of Toronto city centre.
The BIA wanted to keep shoppers on Bloor Street and support the businesses operating there. The story is no different 44 years later. High-street shoppers are drawn away by the internet and large out-of-town shopping centres. BIDs are nothing short of a lifeline for high-streets.
One of the very first things Bloor Street BIA did was to put up decorative street-lighting and install planters on the sidewalk. This excerpt from an article written in The Toronto Star provides some anecdotal insight into the effect of doing this:
The small cosmetic changes were enough to draw Alex Ling, a Hong Kong immigrant and gift shop owner, to the village.
“I drove by Bloor West one evening and I saw the lights in the trees and the flower boxes and everything,” he remembers. “And I said wow, what a nice place. I want to have my store here.”
He relocated his store, Ling’s Importers, to the intersection of Bloor St. W. and Beresford Ave., where it still stands today. Ling also eventually succeeded Whiteacre in becoming BIA chairman, a position he retained for 24 years.
Each town, city or industrial BID has its own needs and ways to achieve and measure success but one theme that seems to remain consistent is a need to clean up, shape up and make our high-streets beautiful places to visit.
Bath BID employs five rangers equipped with specialist vehicles which they use to proactively maintain the quality of the BID environment. They even offer direct contact with rangers so the public and shop owners can ring up, report a problem and get a quick response. What better way to keep the highstreet always looking spic and span.
This approach, on a practical level, is about ensuring the high-street is fit for purpose and attracts visitors rather than compels them away but this approach is also about creating a stronger business community and shared responsibility for the high-street.
Mary Portas, acclaimed ‘Queen of the High Street’, came up with the idea in 2014 to have ‘Town Teams’. Mary points out that visits to the high street are falling year on year and whilst she praises the work of BIDs, feels that more can and should be done:
“Change on our high streets will come from people not just policies. Charismatic, local people with a vested interest in protecting their town centres and revitalising their communities will, if empowered to do so, inevitably lead the charge for change.”
Mary also acknowledges that shop keepers will never compete with the speed and efficiency of the internet. She advises a focus on Experience, Service and Specialism.
“Experience, in the truest sense of the word, is something which touches people on a deeper human level. Retail theatre when done well is surprising, challenging, uplifting, energising even mesmerising. Great brands, retailers or not, have realised that a three dimensional brand experience is by far the best way to engage with customers and build loyalty. Being and buying. A place I feel so happy to be that it’s a given I’ll buy something. Too many retailers start with the product and build outwards. Too few start with the customer experience and design the product to fit into it.”
BIDs do a great job of delivering events and ‘high street experiences’. Together with creating a safe, clean and attractive environment in which to spend your day, this creates a much stronger value position for visitors.
You can read Mary Portas’ high street review in full on the .gov website.
For some small business people on the highstreet, the internet is portrayed as a bad thing. As Mary points out, competing with it on price might be impossible. Where younger shoppers may have once walked into town for a new sink plunger, they are equally as likely to order it from a well-known and somewhat dominating online shop named after a certain rainforest.
For others, the internet is a lifeline. Social media makes it easy to target niche audiences with very granular marketing and BIDs are able to leverage the dynamic, content driven platforms like Facebook and Twitter to market high street events and engage audiences in their new vibrant shopping experiences.
Here is one of our favourite BID Social Media pages, Falkirk do a great job of posting content to promote the town centre:
MaestroLIVE plays a key role in delivering real-terms value to BIDs, town centres and high street businesses. Our workflow management technology ensures BIDs can operate efficient and effective environment maintenance services. BIDs using MaestroLIVE get more done, in less time creating real and visible improvements to town centre environments.
MaestroLIVE’s CRM enables BIDs to understand more about their members and keep track of meaningful data. This value translates into better communication with BID members and more opportunity to listen to and act upon feedback from members. MaestroLIVE can’t create charismatic community members but it can provide a solution to help ensure every member’s voice is heard.
Finally, MaestroLIVE is part of an internet revolution putting value in the hands of small business people and the BIDs that care about them. The internet has arguably taken something away from the high street and it has most definitely changed the way we shop but MaestroLIVE is just one way the internet benefits high streets and helps BIDs adapt for the future.