Exciting developments for the island’s Retail Sector are being led by Chamber’s Industry Group as it further expands to ensure that strategic expertise leads to a vibrant and healthy future for the sector and the island as a whole
Just two years ago, retail representation in Guernsey consisted of half a dozen shop managers and owners meeting with the well-intentioned idea of providing a point of focus for the island’s second biggest economic area. Fast forward to today and the industry has responded to huge effect with more than 40 retailers now in Chamber’s group and moves afoot to provide a strategic lead for this essential area.
Chamber’s Retail Industry Group includes independents, multiples and retailers in all sectors – clothing, food, gifts, health and activities, sports, beauty, accessories and furniture to name but a few! Led by Jonathan Creasey, the retailers are creating an additional ‘vehicle’ for the sector with the emergence of the Guernsey Retail Group. This will be an entity in its own right and its Executive is hoping to secure funding for the appointment of an Island Retail Manager. The post holder will be an experienced individual with an ability to grasp the importance of a strategic plan for retail which encompasses linked areas such as hospitality and tourism. They will provide a single point of contact and will also devise an annual programme of events (initially launching in Town but for island retail as a whole).
Chamber sponsored a visit by Jersey’s Town Centre Manager Daphne East as a follow-up to bringing Town Executive David Elliott over last year. They have shared details of practical solutions and arrangements, some of which are based on British Retail Consortium initiatives. Our organisation is in contact with BRC Chief Exec Helen Dickinson who will be invited to Guernsey next year to further build on the ‘keeping our high street healthy’ aspect.
The focus group, which has held a high number of meetings with businesses, the States (including very positive engagement with the Committee for Economic Development) and linked industries, has put in a huge number of voluntary hours to drive forward positive change for the sector.
In addition to an annual calendar of events to encourage people into Town, the proposed post holder will have an ability to identify business support avenues for retailers through cooperation on topics such as commercial rates, rents and the role in retail and events of bodies such as the Town Constables, Markets managers, Home Department (for events and licensing) and bodies involved with the visitor economy and hospitality. The post holder will also take a lead on encouraging islanders to see working in retail as a positive.
Jonathan admitted that the challenge is ‘weighty’ but said the level of positivity and confidence in ensuring that retail in the island remains high. ‘The group has been fantastic at putting forward the various work streams and tackling them, all in addition to working a huge number of hours in their day jobs. It is truly impressive and an exciting time for the sector,’ he said.
The changes are even more timely given the demise of the Town Centre Partnership and the end of its link with the two week summer carnival. Attendees at Chamber’s Lunch & Learn with Jersey’s Town Manger heard that she runs an annual series of events for £30,000. Chamber is investigating how an annual budget similar to Daphne’s could be best used year-round here.
‘Chamber’s Industry body and the creation of the Guernsey Retail Group will continue to work together, with some overlap, going forward so that we can meet the needs of both today’s shoppers and the industry itself. Online retail is set to grow and we can’t remove that threat but what we can achieve is to provide good reason for people to come to Town: just look at the response to Seafront Sundays. It’s fantastic. Mirror even a fraction of that on a regular basis in the High Street, Arcade, Market and Mill Street and we will have really vibrant scenario. It is also about being open when people want to shop. There’s a lot to do but, luckily for me, the group is on the case with massive enthusiasm,’ he concluded, smiling.