The call to shop local is a well-used mantra of recent years, but never has it been more crucial. This is a period of transition for all towns and city centres across the UK and beyond, and as we know Aberdeen is not immune.
As a Business Improvement District (BID) our raison d’etre is to bring inward investment to our city centre and with that footfall and be a strong voice for our 900 levy paying businesses. From hosting an array of events and festivals in our own right, to lobbying and being a key conduit for business on driving the city centre masterplan forward, we strive to position Aberdeen as a destination city to live, work, play, explore, study and/or invest.
Lobbying is a huge part of what we do, and engagement at a local and national level allows us to address and take on the concerns of our levy payers on issues ranging from business rates to out of town developments and the current challenges to the high street. We are proud as a BID to have led the Scottish City BIDs group and hold prominent positions in other Scottish and UK place making organisations, that has brought significant funding to the city and shone a light on the city and region’s renaissance.
The challenge to the high street is well documented, and respecting the inevitable closures and often the pain this brings to people affected which can often be forgotten, there have also been some fantastic examples of new openings in our city centre, where local businesses have shown confidence in our main thoroughfare and invested heavily in exciting new projects. This is complemented by our great shopping centres that have looked to blend retail with leisure in offering the ‘experiential’ and of course our wide range of independent retailers who continue to offer the very best the city, region and indeed the country has to offer.
Investing in your city centre, whether that is by supporting local shops or enjoying bars, restaurants and hotels to name but a few, plays a huge part. The ripple effect of shopping locally cannot be underestimated, particularly when competing against internet shopping. When spent in our communities our hard- earned money helps support and create new, local jobs and enable local businesses to in turn support our communities in a variety of ways. In this manner, each of us can add significant value to where we live and work and can help to create a vibrant and thriving regional city centre.
Strategically, our vehicle of delivery has to be the City Centre Masterplan that has already realised several notable successes, including Broad Street, Marischal Square, the revamped Music Hall and the newly opened Art Gallery, with more exciting projects on the horizon. However, we know that we need to constantly ally with others in reaching out beyond the city’s walls and support the marketing of our city and wider region. The Abzolutely regional marketing campaign is testament to what can be achieved by pulling resources together and ‘speaking up’ the city and region, not something we have necessarily been famed for in the past. Moreover, the investment and leadership shown by both Aberdeen City and ‘Shire councils and Opportunity North East (ONE) does much to promote the argument for ‘buying local’.
Enhancing the experience for those living here and visiting is a huge part of the work Aberdeen Inspired does, as we aim to increase footfall in the city centre. This has been done through the creation of vibrant events such as the globally acclaimed Nuart Aberdeen, Aberdeen Restaurant Week, Inspired Nights on the Green and the Aberdeen International Comedy Festival, as well as the Alive after Five initiative which celebrates the diverse and vibrant evening and night-time economy Aberdeen City Centre provides.
These events all support local, from north-east food and drink vendors at Inspired Nights, to our range of stall holders at Christmas in the Quad and the multitude of venues from pubs and hotels to the Music Hall that are used during the Aberdeen International Comedy Festival.
Of course, Aberdeen Inspired has more than a passing interest in delivering for the city centre, but everybody has a part to play. It is not only about the event or “draw” on the day but the underlying business package. The knock-on effect of people coming in for large scale events, and also enjoying our excellent independent shops, flagship shopping centres and main thoroughfare is hugely important. We are not only looking to attract the city populace, but reestablish our city centre as the regional hub, befitting of one of Scotland’s big three cities.
As we help drive the city centre masterplan alongside our partners, a more blended approach is needed to encourage spend in the heart of our city, with ‘city living’ and more offices such as the Silver Fin, Marischal Square and Capitol being great exemplars on state of the art accommodation being made available for businesses relocating to the heart of our city.
As you bring more people into the city centre in this way, if these people are coming in, businesses will thrive. This is part of the changing face of the city centre and of course the product has to be right if we are to achieve the outcomes our great city deserves. Nobody can deny there has been progress, but there is certainly no room for complacency either, with still much to do.