Wednesday, 22 February 2012

So it begins...

We all know how hard it has been lately for retailers, and in particular our traditional high street shops. The recent recession, growth of supermarkets and the rise of internet retail has created holes in our high street. The time to stand together united as one has never been more important.

With the recent rise in Twitter's popularity in Warwickshire the unity is already there, so let's build on this to really go for this bid. Tonight, as I write this, the owners of Hatton and Harding are in the same room as Mary Portas. The Queen of Shops has just told them to get Warwick to bid for a chance to be a Portas Pilot.

Are we ready Warwick? Do we know what we want for Warwick? What will improve our town? What will stop the empty shops appearing?

WE NEED YOUR INPUT.

Please leave your comments below. Any thoughts, suggestions and offers of help are welcome. We must submit by March 30th via a short YouTube video. We really need to mobilise fast.



Thanks for all your support. 
Todd @Warwicktweetup & @UnderwoodWines

77 comments:

  1. Please help us to get this bid of the ground. There are so many small businesses in Warwick, our Twitter support also received acclaim from Mary Portas herself.

    Let's do something amazing Warwick

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  2. Maybe a questionare need to go out to all businesses in Warwick to see what they think?

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  3. Warwick needs what all small towns need. Free Parking. Make it easy for people to get to the shops. End the extra 'shopping tax' (Kenilworth needs it too)

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    1. This I agree with - Kenilworth has their free parking revoked last year, for some strange and unexplained reason.

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  4. I have just too much to say!! Am incoherent with excitement and a passion to sieze this opportunity.

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  5. There's a Breakfast Meeting tomorrow at the Rose and Crown - Warwick Works! (formerly known as Brekfast PALS)...I will get this added to the agenda and direct people to this blog.

    Fully behind the campaign to restore Warwick to its former glory! Let me know how I can help.

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    1. That's great Emma. Thankyou so much. The Mayor seems interested and Hatton and Harding are chomping at the bit. Please do send all to this blog. Keeps the brain storm going.

      Cheers Todd.

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  6. We have a Smith Street "Meet the town manager" tomorrow night. I'll bring it up then too. See what this character is made of!

    Sounds ideal, Hatton and Harding - Doing it for Warwick yet again!

    THe Pancho Team

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    1. That's great Dale, thanks very much.

      The more exposure, the more ideas. Direct all to this blog. Brainstorming has started.
      Todd

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  7. It is design month in May and Warwickshire Open Arts in June/July I think the town could get a lot of exposure through events like this.

    I think more needs to be done with empty shops too, I would love to get my work out there a bit more so things like pop up shops or temporary exhibitions in the shops is a great way to fill the empty buildings.

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    1. Chloe I love this idea. Pop ups can be a great use of shops and help smaller businesses like yours.

      Brilliant. More of this please folks!

      ^Todd

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    2. This sort of thing is a great idea. A friend of mine has had a lot of success with that in Kent.
      I would love to set up a needlework shop but one look at the rents put me off. There's just no way you can make that money with a small business and Warwick needs to have 'different' non brand shops to make it different from the big retail centres. Pop Up Shops are great for that.

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  8. Open more shops on a Sunday! Warwick is deader than a dead thing on a Sunday and is never going to compete with other local towns if it doesn't start opening the same hours. If we fancy a mooch on a Sunday, we'd go to Leamington or Stratford before choosing Warwick, even though it's closer to where I live. I've always been surprised that a big touristy place like Warwick hasn't grabbed the opportunities that presents with both hands.

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  9. Also, we need to publicise and direct people to Smith Street. I know of people that moved into the area and didn't even know it was a shopping street for ages - so what chances do visitors of the town have?

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    1. A very valid point Mrs M. Smith street is so hidden away and often forgotten.

      Great ideas so far.
      ^Todd

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    2. A lot of shops in Smith Street fail because of the parking difficulty and the narrow street. I've seen shops come and go there over the last 30 years or so and it's always been the same, partly due, I suspect to planning restrictions for additional FREE parking, English Heritage and The Victorian Society, who advise the planners on what can and cannot be done and how !

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  10. I think it's brilliant you're running with this. Good luck to you all!
    Charlie

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  11. This is such a fantastic opportunity - really exciting - well done guys! Agree with lots of above comments - esp re parking etc, as have been known to drive to Warwick & have to leave as no parking! Also think attractions in Warwick/surrounding countryside need to work together with the town so the whole place is a destination - not just for tourists but for locals and families too. As someone who moved here - feel sometimes is a town of 2 parts - castle/attractions and town centre. The two working in tandem would be extra powerful. Happy to help on that score if I can! Love Warwick! Great shops, cafes, restaurants & a Castle!

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    1. Thanks Sara,

      Some excellent points. Warwick is very fragmented. Pulling together all it's strengths could be a key factor. Great ideas.

      That parking has reared it's head again....

      ^Todd

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  12. Going back to the Sunday comment, the majority of Warwick business owners need to re-think their opening hours strategies. In our short time of business we have had huge success opening our salon to suit the needs of our clients not ourselves. With an evening appointment waiting list of 3 weeks. This is a direct reflection of tailoring a business to the consumers needs. Too many businesses open 10am-4pm Monday to Saturday. Which is of use to only a few.

    We need to collectively change our way of thinking, to meet the consumers needs and not our own.

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    1. Thanks for your reply Nash whites.
      I agree, in these time we need to go the extra mile and we're certainly not looking to blame councils or parking fees alone.

      Well done on your work ethic, this is exactly what small businesses should be doing.

      ^Todd

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    2. Totally agree re evenings and Sundays. Most 9-5ers just can't make appointments during the day, so flexibility is needed.

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  13. Its great to read these ideas and feel your enthusiasm and energy for saving Warwick. I know its not as good as having shops open but if they are sat empty would you consider doing what Leamington has done and that is to use the windows as an information site for other shops, attractions, etc. in the town? regards the mention of Smith St I think you also need to include St John's - the greengrocer sadly closed down but theres the shoe shop, cafe, new lighting shop, great Portuguese cafe, etc. that need more business too. Also the individual shops in West Street as well.
    I work for a well known business in Leamington but we also run a successful division of it by Warwick hopsital so if we can do anything to help let me know.
    Georgi

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  14. I grew up in Warwick. I still come back regularly as my mum lives there. On Sunday I noticed the cafes were full but the shops were closed. Missed opportunity. Get rid of the Mop as well. Most retailers don't like it and say it would be better placed elsewhere. The council has to get behind the bid too. Good luck!!!!

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  15. Great effort with this one, I'm happy to help out wherever I can with media and PR support. Also if you want to brainstorm the storyboarding for the You Tube video for the project I'm happy to help. Keep me posted.
    Jack
    @jacklinstead

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  16. Here's my view as an edge-of-Warwick resident (who shops in Stratford more often than not):

    Parking - needs to be improved somehow, especially on weekdays. With a 25 min walk plus pram I'm reluctant to do much shopping in town unless I can drive up, and find a space when I get there.

    The town is quite "zoned" - Smith Street/St John/s feels separated from High St/Market Square etc. Living on the racecourse side of town, I never get as far as Eastgate if I come up on foot. No idea what can be done about this other than refer to point one.

    Empty shops - perhaps better terms for new businesses re rates/rents would help, also loved the idea above about using empty shop windows. Think the company I work for would be interested in using a shop window as a marketing space.

    The possibilities of the market could be expanded - perhaps more themed add-ons like the specialist foodie market that was there a few times last year?

    Social media - make use of QR codes for guides/info/tours. Everyone and his dog has an internet enabled camera phone. And everyone and his dog is on Facebook and Twitter - there must be ways we can expand what's already happening there.

    Sunday opening - yes, we need more than the cafes open. And I say that as a churchgoer... Seriously, people travel to hear the choirs of St Mary's sing on Sundays, let's tap into that if we can.

    More thoughts as and when they strike me.

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    1. I absolutely agree,the Bull Ring B'ham popped up shops in the empty units befor Christmas, surely full shops are better than empty. They could reduce the rents and have short term lets.
      Could Warwick make more of their Saturday market? Possibly get the organizers and stall holders on board, make them part of the community project.
      Could the shops advertise other shops on other streets so visitors who are new to Warwick are encouraged to shop down all of Warwick's beautiful streets- they could easily miss out. This could be done with "A" boards or signs???

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  17. I'm glad my Sunday comment went down okay, I was a bit worried about that one!

    With regard to parking, I agree something needs to be done however, I'm not sure that free parking is the completely the way forward as free parking in towns often means that there's no chance of getting a space in the middle of the day! At least with short-stay car parks, that you pay for - you know you're going to get a parking space. For example, it wasn't popular but since they installed parking meters in Leamington and Rugby, you can always get parked where you need to be. I'm not opposed to paying for parking if the spaces are handily located and the parking charges aren't too high.

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  18. More events to bring people into Warwick in the first place. People need to see it as more than just a castle!

    The Leamington Food Festival and the Taste Trail spring to mind. I'm not suggesting a big festival but perhaps something that gets people visiting different premises like the Taste Trail.

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  19. 12.50
    Just had a call from the council offices. They are dealing with it as we speak and are very excited by it all too!

    Keep the ideas coming folks!

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  20. Great to hear that the council are on board - lets hope their employees are too as they are or should be, good customers of the shops in Warwick.

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  21. Fantastic response already!!! Just confirmed what we already knew, lot's of passion in Warwick to turn things around!!! Having been lucky enough to talk with Mary Portas yesterday, she's amazed with not only the support we have as a business from Warwick but also the obvious community spirit - it really is incredible!

    Parking has to be a major issue, cost and limitations, in addition to the increasing number of empty units. We need to make Warwick a destination town, we see the success that things like the Folk Festival & Victorian Fair bring and maybe more frequent events throughout the year could be planned to drive more footfall. Anyway, all exciting stuff!!

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  22. I live in London now but as I mentioned in my comment above come regularly to Warwick to visit my mum. Near where I live in South East London, Forest Hill did a pop up event at Christmas last year and the year before. All the empty shops and business premises were taken over to host pop up events such as card making, craft events, fashion shows, mask making, learning how to play musical instruments etc. It brought a lot of people in to the town centre and created lots of fun and ideas and networking opportunities. They are planning more of these events, including a fashion show this April.
    Also, the shops in the town centre and the Forest Hill Society have teamed up with the Horniman Museum just up the road to put posters of the artefacts in the museum into the empty shop windows as a kind of public art. It looks brilliant and aims to get people who visit the museum to go to the town centre and vice versa. I also agree about more festivals or events to get people into the town.
    I also think that the train station could do more to encourage people up in to the town rather than just go to the castle. This could be posters of The Warwick Trail - highlighting all the places to visit such as the church, castle, Mill Street Gardens as well as cafes, restaurants, shops etc. Or it could be specific posters for specific businesses.
    And Chiltern Railways needs to have more trains stopping at Warwick and connecting with trains to and from Oxford, Leamington, Coventry etc. Too many times I've been stranded at Leamington waiting for a Warwick connection when I could have walked quicker!
    Kate Gould

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  23. While I do agree that free parking would draw more people to Warwick it used to be impossible to get a parking space in town before the restrictions were put in place. Not sure what the answer to that is!

    Also doesn't help Warwick that the banks don't open on a Saturday so you have to go to Leamington. And while you're there you look in Leam shops not Warwick ones.

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  24. I hope we can build on the excellent shops we already have, such as present days, and try to encourage independent retailers, go for quality rather than the same old names that make Leamington the same as every other town. We should also make more of our wonderful buildings and history, maybe if we had (for example) people from the castle wandering around, having sword fights etc, it would bring more people in to the town centre. We also need to better publicise events that do happen in town, I miss far too much because I don't know about it, and it's not just because I am a ahairy halfwit;-)

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  25. Having recently moved to Warwick it's so exciting and inspiring to feel part of such a great bid. Warwick is a beautiful town but is lacking in retail indulgence. With the castle sitting at the foot of our high street bringing hundreds of thousands of visitors to the town each year Warwick is missing the opportunity to put back into the ecomony. As a local Warwick business I give my full to you all.

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    1. Great comment. Are you a Twitter girl Rose? There's an awful lot to be gained locally by checking out the likes of WarwickTweetup, which is going great guns in putting local businesses and people in touch with each other?

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  26. Great comment Rose! Thanks Jack for the plug! www.warwicktweetup.co.uk that's us, it all started on twitter as always! ^Todd

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  27. Fully behind this and agree with much of what has already been said. Too often as I am about my travels in Warwick with toddler in tow I'm accosted by bemused tourists asking where the "town centre" is. For me Warwick seems to lack coherence and often some of the really great shops, eateries, pubs and attractions there are are simply missed because people just don't know they are there. Better signposting, better town guides, better visible advertising would help. People need to know that the actual town is more than just the Market square. I agree that the train station could play more of a part in this and itself is in need of work. I love Warwick but it reminds me very much of how Durham city centre was when I lived there in the 90's, (albeit without so many students) Having visited again recently I really like what Durham has done to rejuvenate its centre. There is a good mix of mainly independent eateries and retailers alongside a new, small shopping street of more mainstream shops. Even outside of term time it has a great buzz now and I've always thought how great it would be to have a similar feeling throughout Warwick. I do think that attracting a few more mainstream shops to the town would be of general benefit. I'd also like to see more family events being run in the town itself and those that are already being better publicised. I think Warwick is a great place to bring up a family in so many ways and we can see already that there is some great community spirit. But as a mum of three I do confess I sometimes don't feel that a family trip into town is warranted as there isn't enough for us to do there unless we are having a nice meal or visiting the castle. I've added some details of this page to the Netmums Warwickshire website as I'd like our members who are local parents to have a chance to comment too - hope that's ok.

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  28. Thanks Caroline.

    Great commets, good to hear it from the family side of the argument too.

    Please do share this idea with whoever it would concern. Just great spirit everyone. Keep it up!

    ^Todd

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  29. I agree with a lot of what has been said already. I live in a village outside Warwick and it's my nearest town - I regularly travel in but it has to be by car and of course everyone is fully aware of the parking issues already so I won't repeat them to death (but I would come in more if I knew it wasn't going to be a potential nightmare trying to park!). The main reasons that draw me to the town are certain (you know who you are) independent shops, cafes and restaurants (mainly evening but occassionally weekend lunchtimes). More of the speciality festival type events would definitely bring me in (eg the Thai festival, farmers' markets) but I don't feel too well informed about when they are happening and only tend to stumble upon them by accident.
    I agree with what Caroline has said about drawing a couple of more mainstream shops to the town...perhaps you should discuss with the DC the impact that Waitrose has had on Kenilworth? I grew up there working in a greengrocers which was surrounded by charity shops. It closed shortly afterwards (nothing to do with having employed me!) and Kenilworth town centre remained underused and deprived of its full potential for many years afterwards. I am sure they still have a long way to go but the redevelopment of Talisman Square and the arrival of Waitrose has definitely attracted other names (Costa/Almanack, both of which are already in Warwick) and some lovely independent shops. More than this, it is starting to have a bit more of a buzz and footfall than it did.
    I'm sure that Warwick will be starting from a better position in many respects with its variety of shops and eateries - everyone has a real opportunity to input into the Portas Pilot bid with a view to bigger ideas for the town going forward.
    Also, could you think about trying to develop a relationship with Chiltern Railways/London Midland that would mean they publicise certain places/events in Warwick more than just the Castle? For example, they do special offers from London to Stratford for events and the theatre so perhaps this could be replicated?
    How about trying to garner a group of enthusiastic volunteers who might act as ambassadors for the town at busy times eg summer weekends/event or festival days, handing out information leaflets/wearing Warwick T shirts etc and generally being a visible team available to help out and enthuse tourists and visitors to the town (eg standing by the Castle and talking about the wider town to visitors and directing them around?)

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  30. I'm an owner of a small business in Warwick and I think this is a fabulous idea. My business isn't a tourist attraction, or a place that anyone would want to browse around, but I hope we can show our support in some way. We'd be open to the idea of buying advertising space in the window of an empty shop for example. I have lived and worked in Warwick for many years, and even went to school here, so I'd love to be able to see it growing and flourishing again.
    Marcella King

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  31. Hi Marcella.

    I love the idea of advertising space in empty shops. We need to contact landlords in the area, and that is something we will look into with the council meeting on Tuesday next week.

    I think your business is like many others in Warwick, NOT a tourist attraction. But that shouldn't matter, we should be attractive to tourists AND the local area.

    Only when confidence returns that Warwick is somewhere to shop, you can park and you do know we all the shops are will it improve.

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  32. Speaking from a non-resident of Warwick, we like walking round, going for coffee there and I do a lot of business with in and around Warwick but we rarely go there as a destination. Warwick for me lacks identity - with so many individual pockets of activity, there is no cohesion. Fully agree with some of the comments above, need better signage, need to fill empty shops, get rid of the MOP - replace it with some sort of festival. Shops need to rethink opening hours, you can walk through some days and its dead! Only the tourists are out and about.

    There is one night of the year that Warwick as a truely great atmosphere and that is the Victorian night, if the people involved in this project can find a mechanics to emulate this through other channels, you might find it is a big draw.

    Does Warwick Town have a BID (Business Improvement District)? If not, why not? This could so help Warwick be more cohesive and could help co-orinate this?

    For this to really work, you need Warwick to pull together. That means reaching far and wide across the town, get everyone involved, Warwick people standing shoulder to shoulder.

    Wish you all the best team.

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  33. I live in warwick centre and organise the classic car show in the market square in august, so in excess of a few hundred visitors milling about the town centre on a Sunday. One of the biggest complaints is that none of the shops are open, despite Warwick being branded as a "tourist town". Like somebody has already mentioned, businesses need to rethink their opening hours, in order to capture this trading opportunities.

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    1. Thanks Matt.

      I think this is really something we need to look at. If the town is busy with events 'would' shops benefit? The mop seems to have the opposite effect but even church growers complain of the quiet 'Ghost town' on Sunday.

      Maybe shops opening during big events? This needs advertising to locals and shop keepers though as many complain they simply don't know when events are happening.

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  34. Local shops don't know about events? Thats surprising....there were big banners hanging up, listing said events in the square(there were last year anyway). The problem isn't just about event days though. i've been in the town centre on warm sunny sundays in the peak of summer and the town centre is a ghost town..... tourists drifting about staring longingly in closed shop windows......

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    1. It's mainly the case of everyone should know everything. If and event is on on a Sunday the there's should be more effort to make Warwick alive!

      Totally agree where you are coming from Matt.

      Could you email us please.

      warwicktweetup@gmail.com

      Thanks ^Todd

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  35. Re-instate the annual town square Cycle criterium; it was a massive success.

    Encourage cycling/pedestrians (get on the back of the Times’ #cyclesafe campaign) with more bike parking (simple Sheffield stands)

    Have a look at Sarah Raven’s campaign (http://www.sarahraven.com/beesbutterfliesblooms)on brightening towns & cities with wild flowers (http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b0152fty/Bees_Butterflies_and_Blooms_Villages_Farms_and_Countryside/) ; there’s plenty of places in Warwick that could benefit and reduce council costs on grass maintenance.

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  36. Social media and mobile technology would be a great way to get local people mobilized and to keep them in touch with their high street. A truly local agency like Palmer Hargreaves in Leamington would be a great way to build Facebook pages and iPhone apps designed to bring the community to the shops and amenities.

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  37. Tim Harrison-Jones and Huw from the racecourse would be great ambassadors for the bid - both are supporters of local business and have been looking for ways to support independent businesses.

    As for Sunday trading, many of us have tried (and failed) to take advantage of Sundays. There are just not enough people to make it pay. It's not that we don't want to - if it costs more to open than you take - economics take over. Now - if we can attract the events that bring in people who want to spend in town then we WILL open (see Folk Festival - Victorian evening etc.)

    Our strengths:

    One of the rare places in the country where people live, work AND play.
    A unique mix of independents meaning that the town does not look like every other town in the UK.
    A magnificent tourist attraction - the Castle
    A fabulous sporting attraction - the racecourse
    A generally prosperous population

    There was talk of having a Warwick WiFi some time back. Harnessing a town- wide network with push technology could be very powerful.

    Parking needs to be carefully considered as when it was free the spaces were blocked by office workers leaving cars all day. When charges came in spaces became available for potential customers.

    Parking for shop and leisure workers would help employers with recruitment - current charges make it difficult for shop workers.

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  38. That's Tim Harrison-Jones from the Castle

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  39. I like many people am extremely excited about Warwick putting in a bid to become a Portas Pilot town.

    For me the USPs of Warwick are the history, independent shops and location.

    However there is still much that can be done to improve the town and the council should always be striving to improve facilities, pilot new initiatives and harness free media to assist with promotion.

    A few things that spring to mind:

    Use of empty shops for pop-ups - Birmingham Mailbox did this very well leading up to Christmas. There are so many sole traders and creative businesses that can not afford to open a shop but if they could hire an empty shop for a short period or join with another business it would add to the shopping experience.

    I also like the idea of using the empty shops for advertising what Warwick has to offer, stores, events etc

    Social media is a free channel for promotion and the council should be harnessing this. With so many of the businesses on there plus the warwicktweetup they could be using this to promote the town and create a real buzz.

    Agree Warwick is a ghost town on a Sunday which is a shame as there are so many visitors as well as local people who would like to walk round a vibrant town on both weekend days.

    As someone who has to use the car parks I'd like more spaces that are longer than 2/ 3 hrs, this simply is not long enough.

    I like the idea of QR codes alongside good old fashioned maps at key points through the town. Also have maps available within shops.

    The bid has to provide innovative ways to improve the town, just from those who have commented there are quite a few initiatives that could be implemented and a real difference be felt by those who work, live and visit Warwick.

    I'm fully behind the bid!

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  40. Hey everyone,

    This is just amazing. The response is so heart warming. Warwick is so loved it's amazing it ever got to this in the first place.

    We have some key players on board now, this blog has now had over 1600 views and the ideas and suggestions from this blog comment thread will be what we discuss at our meeting on Tuesday. We have secured the interests of many key people and thanks to the positive buzz surrounding this 'idea' it's already been discussed in council meetings!!

    The POWER of social media hey?!

    Please do keep the comments coming as they will be used to form our agenda for Tuesday's meeting with Warwick council. Commenting here really does let you have your say!

    Great work everyone.

    ^Todd

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  41. A Mid week Warwick crafters only market! As it's a market town surely it would be great to have two markets a week keeping them different to keep the interest going.

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  42. "There was an opportunity for Warwick to have a BID a couple of years ago, but the majority of traders voted against it, and sadly, those traders who were visibly in support of the project were 'bullied' by those voting against. Unfortunately Warwick is now paying the price"

    Christie (Warwicktweetup)

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    1. ANOTHER STUPID IDEA TO CLOSE SWAN STREET, IT WAS TRIED LAST YEAR WITH THE FARMERS MARKET AND KILLED MY BUSINESS, WHY DOES EVERYONE THINK THEY ARE MARKETING EXPERTS!!!

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  43. I work in a town with BID (and for a business that has to pay for it) and I really can't see the benefits of it. I can't see that it has improved the town centre one iota. In fact, it has got worse and worse over the past few years, so many shops have closed down, I never see an event or campaign advertised - all it seems to be is people walking around with red jackets and walkie talkies, not doing a whole lot! It seems to be all about cleanliness and security, and I'm not sure that either of those are the problem with Warwick.

    They do have a vacant shop initiative but there is a lot of empty shops and I'm not sure how often this gets taken up. Shops seem to open and close down a few months later.

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  44. I live in Warwick and agree with the majority of comments already posted. I drive thru Warwick to get to Leamington and see lots of lovely looking shops that I would stop and visit if parking wasn't so difficult. I have tried to make the trip on a Sunday and found the shops closed so again carry on to Leamington. Traffic is also a nightmare in Warwick, it's normally quicker for me to go down the M40 to Sainsburys than it is to drive to Tesco.

    Warwick does food very well though, the standard of the restaurants is high and there is plenty of choice. I ate out in Warwick on Saturday and the new overnight parking charge is a joke! We parked in Priory Road car park at 7.15pm and had to pay £2.20 to take us to 10.15pm as the machine didn't register that the charge after 8pm should be 50p.

    Apart from restaurants in Warwick the only other business I visit on a regular basis is Nashwhite as they open at times that suit their customers but I do understand that this is possible because of appointments and wouldn't work for many shops but closing at 4pm in this day and age is just crazy!

    I also agree with the comments on the mop, I totally avoid Warwick when it is on. From past experience it has a very hostile, aggressive atmosphere. Not something fitting with Warwick IMO.

    I adore Warwick and would love to see it thriving, but to be honest it would have to do something pretty special for me to stop during the day rather than drive thru it to get to Leamington.

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  45. Some brilliant observations in these posts and we are all for this bid. I would like to point out that the Chamber of Trade has been fighting for years to get people to open on Sundays but, as we all know, many businesses are family owned and it is their only day off. The only way that Sunday opening will work is if enough trade is generated to be able to employ someone and this will only happen if enough other shops are willing to open too, which they haven't and is why it has failed in the past. Seven day working is fine for the 3 months up to Christmas but very draining all the year round. The COT has great allies in Huw Williams and Tim Harrison-Jones and they will be very important to this bid, as will be Ian Kirkwood, who is also looking after tourism strategy for WDC.
    We are very fortunate that we have so few empty shops (far, far fewer, pro-rata, than Stratford or Leamington) and fortunate that WDC is not trying to impose another 'white-elephant' shopping arcade on us. We will only survive if we continue to provide fantastic, interesting and independent shops. Whilst others have floundered Warwick has flourished and with the enthusiasm of the Chamber of Trade, the Castle, the Racecourse and all the great shops we will continue to do so.
    I have reservations about the 'Portas' mania. It is very easy to set up a shop within a shop in a very well used shopping arcade and with massive TV coverage. I would have more respect if she had opened on the high street without any fanfare and having to pay her way. I will reserve judgement and certainly would want to scrutinise her ideas - after all it's not her money at risk. Having said that, any ideas must be welcome so why not ride on the back of her fame if we can?

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  46. Meant to add - if Mary can get rid of the MOP (another thing we have been trying to do for 30 years!!) and get the Square reinstated she will get most people's vote.

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  47. Some excellent comments today.

    The Mop. Totally agree, nothing to do with historic Warwick and drives trade away from shops (that's I've spoken to) some even close and some residence move out for the weekend.

    Parking. Still a major issue. We will try and see what, if any has been done about this. Over night is a joke and not encouraging for restaurant visitors

    Traffic. That Warwick swear word. Warwick simply wasn't designed to have traffic one or two horse and carts maybe. Very difficult to see how this can be resolved. But top on our agenda.


    Keep them coming though. They ARE issues that stop people using the town and we will be dealing with them in our bid.

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  48. I agree this is a great opportunity to help Warwick. My customers are always complaining of the parking. To many empty shops around which means less choice of outlets for shoppers. Pop up shops or shorter term (3months) lease trails may help. It seems outrageous to me that the centre of Warwick has a huge square that sits empty 6 days a week......WHAT A WASTE !!!!! Surely more markets and fairs can be organised. Look how busy a market day is and it's a great buzz. We spent all last year opening Sunday's to be met with the same comments "your the only place open". Surely more events in square on Sunday free parking,shops all open, empty shops filled

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  49. Ran out of space!!!
    My main point is basically whether it's a market, Thai festival, mop, folk festival etc etc Warwick is packed and thriving and people want to come to town. If we fixed the parking for these and dates added another 10 events and filled the empty shops maybe give free stalls to smaller businesses and charitys we will increase interest in our town. We need to give people a reason to come to Warwick on a Sunday and if we do we all have another days business per week!! No more coffee shops or charity shops...... How many does a small town need!!
    Rant over !!!

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  50. We are trying to get the parking fixed and there are plans for more events - so progress already.

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  51. I note the comment from "Mrs M" about the Business Improvement District in her town - "I can't see that it has improved the town centre one iota". It probably has but the effect will be imperceptible. The Portas project MUST offer the promise of tangible and visible benefits to businesses in order to be supported by the majority, not more litter bins or Xmas lights. I fear most BID-type projects fail because despite being worthy they don't (appear to) put money in tills.

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  52. You could be right JD. As I said, it all seems to be street-cleaning and "rangers" walking around. I can't count how many shops have closed down here in the past year. Shops seem to open up for a few months and then disappear, even big high street names have been slowly disappearing leaving the town centre itself with not much more than charity shops and pound shops. It does make me wonder what BID is actually doing other than clearing up chewing gum. It's not a town where I live, but where I work and as a visitor - I just can't see what BID does and I agree that the Portas project needs to be visible - not just all mouth and no trousers.

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    1. I agree Mrs M that these past systems look like they're failing. We are approaching this with fresh ideas, in fact I'm not even researching other towns.

      Warwick is unique, like most towns, and it needs an equally unique approach.

      We already have great community spirit and actions in Warwick, we want to bring it all together. Warwick-The Brand

      And don't worry, there's a hell of a lot of trousers around here! ;)

      ^Todd

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  53. I don't doubt your trousers Todd :p

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  54. First of all I want to say that I'm really excited by this initiative!

    My thoughts are similar to what's been said before re parking. It's hard to park, and expensive.

    In addition we need to make the shopping experience a more 'joined up one'. Smith St is fantastic and needs to be promoted more. There are also good shops and cafes around Coten End, a very short stroll from Smith Street. St John's (in between Smith St and Coten End) is a mess though and needs to be sorted out - empty shops, litter, generally an unappealling area). Maybe some attractive maps/leaflets could be created and left with the tourist office?

    The other thing that would help is to have more little festivals/markets/fayres to appeal to tourists and locals alike and bring more footfall to all areas.

    I'd also like to see more shops open on Sunday - what a missed opportunity it is. We often wander in to Warwick for food on a Sunday and would love to browse some of the shops while we're there. Some of the shops on Smith St are also shut on Monday which is a bit frustrating....

    Good luck to all involved and let me know if there's anything I can do to help.

    Claire

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  55. Is the competition not aimed more for towns that are down and out? I hardly think Warwick fits that category. Yes the town has a few empty shops, but where doesn't and nowhere near as many as the BID towns of Leamington or Stratford.
    As for parking, I think it is much easier to find a space in Warwick nowadays, it used to be full of cars that were parked there for the day (likely empoyees of the shops, not the customers), so you had no chance.

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  56. I agree with the empty shop issue within the town.

    Why not fill these spaces with young talent?
    Youth unemployment is such a big issue at the moment and it will effect us all.

    There is a huge amount of talent going to waste.
    Start up businesses are struggling to find funding and lets face it landlords probably dont want an indivdual young university / college leaver as a tenant.

    These spaces could be split into small workshops or units so they could showcase their arts.
    The rents could be subsidised and maybe there could be links to volounteer mentors to help them.
    But the criteria should be that the individuals must be young school, college and unversity leavers basically young entrepreneurs.
    How many newly qualified ceramicists, young designers, florists, film makers, photographers, artists,chefs,graphic designers etc etc are there out there that need a break?


    Not only would this be a great social enterprise it would also add greatly to Warwicks diversity.
    aswell as supporting the next generation of businesses.

    Along with some kind of marketing initiative this could be another attraction to the town.

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  57. While I agree with most comments that have been said on this blog, there seems to be one glaring omission....namely 'The Market Square.' We are very fortunate in Warwick that we have such a large open space right in the centre of the town which is certainly not fulfilling its true potential (the clue being in its name, Market Square.)
    When it was changed a number of years ago with the advent of the so called ‘café culture’ I think we all thought Paris on a spring day or Madrid on a balmy evening, but what have we ended up with; an empty concrete void, obviously built to accommodate the Mop which visits Warwick twice a year. If some ancient charter does say that the Mop has to come to Warwick, why can’t it be moved away from the square to somewhere less obtrusive which would give the area back to residents and tourists alike.
    If you travel to similar sized historical towns across Europe you will see pride in their town squares, with individual shops, bars, cafes and restaurants all with outside seating and certainly not inhabited by charity shops and bookmakers!
    The Saturday market is a great addition to Warwick, but more events need to be added if new breath is to be injected to make Warwick a truly great County Town. There is a ready made stage at the foot of shire hall which could be used for concerts and other open air events. Perhaps some trees could be planted in the square (or once again does the influence of the mop have to be taken into consideration) to give it some character. This maybe a little controversial but why not pedestrianize the whole of the square which would enable the restaurants on that side to enjoy alfresco dining as well.
    I would like to make it clear that these are my own views entirely and I certainly have no commercial interest in any of these proposals whatsoever. I am a resident of this lovely town and very sad to see its decline.
    Brian

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  58. Excellent comments from you Brian.

    We are moving heavily towards the re-branding of Warwick and indeed are looking at making the market square the focus of our Pilot bid.

    Having a lively central hub in the heart of Warwick that is always busy with something on will pull people to the town. The current Saturday market is excellent and I'm looking forward to visiting tomorrow as I do most Saturdays.

    Keep those comments coming everyone, nothing is set in stone yet. Tuesday is our deadline.

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  59. As a fairly new business and being located in new street, just off the beaten track we've looked at several ways to get our shop advertised to tourists and local people from flyers to adverts in the local papers, a boards & twitter. However we've found and I'm sure most of you have seen...our man with the sign standing on the corner of market place & swan street daily, he grabs the attention of everyone that walks past and he has been fantastic at attracting tourists into our shop, some people mocked him at first but now after several months and being there all winter he has become respected by most and talked about, although this is not ideal for everyone it has proved very successful for us.
    As a great deal of our business comes from tourists I try to speak to most if them and ask about how they found us and where there from, nearly all of them say "we saw your man with the sign" or they've had friends visit Warwick and have told them, most of them come on coaches and stay in Coventry as a base, I've tried to contact the hotels and get our flyers in there packs, although when they say they will I've seen no evidence that they have given them out. If we could tap into this if think it would be a great help as the tourists would then have a purpose built guide of where we would like them to go and see.
    Another idea that has come from one of my customers is, why not close swan street off on a Saturday and have a bigger and better street market, this doesn't have to be every week but maybe every fourth, thousands of people flock to wellesbourne market every week, I no its on a bigger scale but worth a thought.
    My last point is about parking, I'm sure you've herd it all before but here goes anyway, why can't we release some of the council carparks to visitors instead of council workers? We should create something that a lot of other towns do....park & ride! Get the tourists driving and parking in the town and the workers parking on the out skirts, I'm not sure exactly how it would work but maybe worth looking into if it hasn't already.

    That's about it, I think but following on from an idea you mentioned about our board man having his own twitter account, we're looking into it just need to create the right profile and how we can use to our benefit.

    Thanks
    David
    SCOOPZ Ice Cream Bar

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