How to manage a high street or retail district | MIPIM-World Blog

Reviewed by Greg Clark

Management of our urban centres has become commonplace in the UK over the past three decades. They started with basic public/private collaborations in the late 1980s, moving into more structured town centre management partnerships through the 1990s and more recently formalising into professional place management companies (BIDs) in the mid 2000s through to the present day.

Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are business-led partnerships focused on improving and enhancing commercial areas including town and city centres, commercial locations and industrial estates. Since their inception in the UK in 2005, there are now close to 130 BIDs around the country, 90 of which are in town and city centres.

A BID can only be formed following consultation and a ballot in which businesses vote on a BID business plan for the area.  Once established all businesses identified within the business plan are compelled to pay a mandatory levy for the term of the BID, which is usually five years. The average size of a BID is 300-600 hereditaments, with some of the smallest having fewer than 50 hereditaments and the largest at 2,500. Annual income is typically £200,000-£600,000 but is less than £50,000 per annum in a small number of cases and is over £1 million in half a dozen or so locations.

The role and purpose of a BID is defined locally by the business community but largely focuses around the core themes of clean, safe, green, marketing and economic development.  The relative importance of each of these themes depends upon the needs and issues locally and the maturity of the partnership and delivery. Ultimately BIDs are about being custodians of a local commercial area and broadly performing a place management remit on behalf of all interested parties.

As BIDs are beginning to mature across the UK, with 40 sites now successfully renewed into a second term, their agenda is broadening from the early janitorial activities to focus more on the essence of place management and economic development thus leading the way on creating a collaborative approach to ensuring viable high streets for the future. Alongside this critical leadership role, BIDs are increasingly recognising the importance of achieving economies of scale for businesses through joint procurement opportunities to bring down retailer’s occupancy costs.  Many BIDs are seeking to achieve a cost neutral position for businesses within their location where the occupancy savings made fully offset the annual cost of the levy.

Advanced BIDs are proving significant value to their locations and are gradually raising their game through quality standards such as the British BIDs Industry Accreditation, whilst seeking cost-saving and/or influence enhancing alliances with others in their sub-regions.

by Dr Julie Grail, Chief Executive, British BIDs

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