CEO Blog - March 2021

Matthew Sims, Chief Executive of Croydon BID

It is exactly one year since the first lockdown came into force across England. As many take some time to reflect on the past year, the impact and the loss suffered, it is equally important that we look to the future and how together we can reshape, rebuild and recover locally, regionally and nationally.

The roadmap is now set and assuming it does not deviate demonstrates a certain level of certainty for us to work towards and as predicted illustrates the intention to take things slowly as we come out of lockdown. With respect to Covid-19, my approach and the approach is to focus on creating a safe environment for all to enjoy and at this stage of the game I am in favour of a precautionary lifting of restrictions.

There is no doubt that we are still very much dealing with the pandemic and with one eye on Europe and the increasing levels of cases, we must remember to be vigilant and sensible in our approach as we start to reopen.

You can read my response to the Chancellor of the Exchequer’s budget statement. Simply put, the question remains whether Rishi Sunak MP went far enough.

The restart grants are certainly welcome and I am delighted to see that the Raise The Bar campaign, led by Croydon BID influenced national policy to ensure businesses with a rateable value of £51k received financial support. Business Improvement Districts across the UK, as a combined voice, can and will make an extraordinary difference to support their members.

We have an 8-point plan to help reshape, rebuild and recover:

  • Meanwhile use: Like many other town centres and high streets, we are going to have vacant units and spaces. We need to be inventive in our approach looking at all possibilities, thinking outside the box to offer something a little different to entice people back.
  • Advocate Inward Investment: The premise of reshaping, rebuilding and recovering centres around what we have currently and retaining it while looking to attract in a new and improved offer. It was great to see the news announced by Centrale of a ‘Flip Out’ super centre coming to the town centre. We need to activate a plan to attract inward investment which can identify the gaps and ultimately discover the opportunities. For me, I want to see a Bill’s Restaurant in town – what do you want?
  • Transportation: We have an incredible network used by thousands every day. In the short term, to attract the commercial sector back to the town centre, we will be calling for greater flexibility in travel tickets to enable not just employees back but to support domestic tourism across the summer months across the capital. We will be calling for renewed investment in our network while prioritising lobbying attempts to make Croydon a Zone 4.
  • Safety: Supporting the partnerships in place, the focus must be on reducing crime and anti-social behaviour in the town centre, improving visibility and engagement, promoting a positive feel for all to enjoy. The challenges remain – we must find the solutions.
  • Croydon - destination: Its look, feel, attractiveness, improving neglected areas and reversing the broken window syndrome. The promotion of arts and culture more than ever before, celebrating our talents while marketing Croydon on the positive ways we see it – not what we think people want to hear. We all have a role to play in this. 
  • Technology enabled: As we look to reshape the high streets, technology will play more of a core role. It’s time to consider how to apply technology to our town centre that will improve its use, allowing us to create opportunities for businesses to grow.
  • Sustainability: the business community has an important role to play in delivering against a green agenda for the town centre and the borough. This means adjusting some of our operations, considering different approaches and introducing small initiatives that support the borough we live and work in.
  • Community Driver: We have this in spades. The voluntary sector has demonstrated how effective it can be in galvanising the community together to work a problem or a challenge and achieve great results. We are all invested in Croydon. Working with the business community, we can do more together, consult and bring forward greater social cohesion.

That’s the medium to long term. As I tell my children, nothing is impossible. On a more practical sense, the planning is well underway for the reopening of our town centre from 12th April 2021 with the release of non-essential retail, hair and beauty, indoor leisure facilities and outdoor serving for the hospitality sector. I for one cannot wait to see the town centre reopen its doors, breathing new life and looking forward.

Croydon BID is leading the way in supporting not just our members but the business community in general with a comprehensive guide to reopening. The guide is aimed at providing confidence to you and your business have all the information you need. What’s more the guide provides a clear outline as to the services provided to members as we look to reopen the town centre.

All of the signage is to be replaced, hand sanitiser stations added and queue markers resprayed. Our cleaning team is already back on site working with many of our members to make sure their businesses are ready for reopening. Further cleansing activities will focus on street furniture and shop fronts as we look to improve the look and feel. We will bring forward a level of colour and vibrancy with planting and hanging baskets.

Our night ranger team will continue as they have done through lockdown, providing a visible presence, support and patrols. Our ambassadors return to engage with business and support with the initial reopening phase. With greater marketing support planned and a series of future events, we are starting to piece together the next 6-12 months for the town centre.

Consumer confidence will take time to recover – no question. However, we are laying the foundations now to help improve confidence and slowly attracting people back into the centre. There will be hurdles to overcome, challenges to navigate but together, we can meet them head on.

That’s more than enough from me. Please take care and remember to stay safe.

Speak soon.

Matthew Sims

Chief Executive, Croydon BID

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