High streets all over the UK have taken a hit from a combination of dramatic structural changes that are affecting the retail industry through the convergence of changing consumer behaviour driven by technology and the macro economic conditions that have emerged. One major macro impact in the last couple of years has been Brexit. In a nutshell, Brexit has brought uncertainty; this uncertainty has reduced consumer confidence and a lower level of means that people are spending less. On top of that, the existing retail model that has been employed is becoming less effective. As a proportion of all retailing, money spent online has increased from an average of 4.9% in 2008 to an average of 16.3% in 2017*. This means that nearly one-sixth of every British pound was spent online in 2017. Retailers know that they must adapt fast and make changes to a newer model, that integrates on and offline transactions. Retail is in a state of flux, considering how best it can meet the needs of all its customers in a more effective way so that the customer experience can be enhanced.
The pressures of a changing high street are evident for all to see and most notably with retailers such as House of Fraser, Debenhams and Marks and Spencer, all of whom are restructuring to some degree. Ultimately our high street needs people. It needs footfall and to do that the offer needs to be right, but so too does the environment and the activities. One way Croydon BID is working to drive footfall is by creating a programme of activities, events and various other local initiatives. Our job is not to convert; our job, in some respects, is to place shape and to be able to provide an attractive offer, so that people can enjoy and spend longer in Croydon, in order that they spend more. Croydon BID will be putting on Wimbledon Live again this year, and the Christmas Markets will come back, bigger and better than before, and we’re collaborating with the council on Street Live throughout the summer. Croydon BID also manages Check Out Croydon, a free card scheme through which we can promote events, offers, discounts and places. These initiatives add an attractive proposition to people to spend time and money in the town centre.
We can’t ignore the fact that our skyline is littered with cranes and more vacant units have appeared in the town centre for a multitude of reasons. Although these could be seen as positive symbols of change in Croydon; in the short term, we have to deal with the limited look of the offer. Croydon’s future is certainly bright, but whilst it’s in transition and going through the largest regeneration since the 1960s, there are challenges to overcome in order to create opportunities. The noise and appearance of the construction, the inconvenience it may cause, and the decreased look of the offer overall, means that fewer people see Croydon town centre as an attractive destination. Working with our partners and you, we need to counter-act that argument, turning the challenges into opportunities, improving the overall look and feel and delivering much needed short term improvements. This includes the core basic needs of additional deep cleaning to deliver brighter streets, welcome ambassadors to help visitors around and support businesses, and other initiatives, such as way finding maps, to facilitate a more attractive proposition.
People make places. To that end, we can be proud as Croydon has one of the most diverse, interesting and youngest populations in the whole of London. Over half of Croydon’s population are from BAME (Black, Asian, Mixed Ethnicity) groups.* Beaten to being the biggest London borough by Barnet, its 382,300 people has the largest number of 0-17 year olds, the second largest working age population (18-64), and the third largest 65+ year olds. The level of residential coming into the town centre is immense. If most of the planned developments in the Town Centre are completed by 2031, the population in the Fairfield ward is estimated to increase by 71.6% its current size, which will be the 12th highest ward population increase across all of London’s wards.* You are potentially attracting families with higher disposable income and professional couples, and they're going to need somewhere to go to shop, eat, find services, be entertained and so on.
There are, of course, the realities of crime and anti-social behaviour that accompany being such a large London borough. And Croydon has suffered from the stigma and negative perception that it is unsafe. Croydon BID works with the Met police, our Welcome ambassadors, and businesses, to invest in safety. As well as funding extra police time in the town centre, Croydon BID launches specific initiatives, such as the successful ‘Back to School Safety’ campaign, and the Croydon Safety Radio Link, to reduce crime and anti-social behaviour.
High streets have constantly had to adapt and change over the last couple of centuries. Whilst online sales are growing at a fast rate, bricks and mortar sales still account for nearly 82% of sales.* If you look specifically at Croydon, we have a host of vehicles and organisations that all come together collaboratively to add real value in that way Croydon works. This is one of the best connected places in the UK and one that has won support from central government in terms of the Growth Fund for Croydon town centre. We can feel confident in the future of Croydon, and at the same time, adapt right now to create a more attractive offer for consumers. The town centres of the future will adapt to bring together the kind of the customer experience that people want. It's not just about going to one store anymore and spending half an hour and going home. This is all about the whole experience. It is about a day. It's not an hour, it's much longer. It has much more value for consumers, and for town centre businesses.
In order for Croydon to become the key chosen destination, it must have everything lined up in a row that provides the single best offer in South London and wider, so that we can compete with the likes of Kingston, Westfield Shepherd’s Bush or Stratford, Bromley and the like.
Croydon BID exists to support the businesses; together, we can overcome the challenges, create opportunities and persevere to the rebirth of a better, more modern town centre. Whether providing extra cleaning, greening, or safety campaigns, or promoting the town centre businesses through Check Out Croydon, strategic partnerships and other schemes, Croydon BID constantly delivers on its pledges that are agreed by our levy payers.
The single most important aspect of any place is its people, and we are fortunate to have a thriving community here in Croydon, who are looking beyond the growing pains to a brighter future.