Shops and other retail outlets have felt the impact of the way shoppers’ purchasing habits have changed. More than 11,000 outlets have permanently closed since the start of the pandemic – and surprisingly, most of those were in city centres.
Government support, such as grants, the furlough scheme, the High Street Fund, and other monetary relief helped to slow the rate of closures among independent retailers by 11% when compared with 2019. The success rate of such funding has encouraged the government to allocate more funds to local authorities across the country.
What is the Welcome Back Fund?
In early 2021, the UK government announced funding would be eligible to help cities, town centres, and other retail focused environments recover from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic. The Welcome Back Fund is one of these financial support systems available to local authorities.
There are several guidelines that state the scope of where the local authority funding must be used, all focused on turning high streets and shopping districts into the bustling environments they once were. The Covid-19 pandemic has piled intense pressure on retailers across the country, with UK retail locations seeing a decline of almost 90% during the height of the crisis.
Not only has the pandemic hurt footfall rates, but it has also had an impact on the way high streets can welcome consumers back. Social distancing and other hygiene measures mean that authorities have had to make further investments into signage such as floor stickers, barriers to encourage one-way systems, hand sanitising stations and more. Financially, this can be a tough ask of many authorities, as this is a further cost during a very tight period.
Benefits Of Accessing The Welcome Back Fund
With the Welcome Back Fund, local authorities can use their allocated moneys in a number of ways to encourage shoppers back to their local area.
Beautification and Maintenance of Public Spaces
One strand of the funding encourages beautification of public spaces, such as cleaning up any graffiti or other visual nuisances, improving green spaces, and adding outdoor seating areas. You can also add bunting, flags, or other decorative items to brighten up your local area.
Events to Encourage the Return of Shoppers
To encourage footfall back into your area, you can set up temporary family events using moneys from the Welcome Back Fund. These can be to celebrate the reopening of shops and other leisure facilities, or to relaunch your area after a rebranding. All events should look to generate additional revenue for local businesses.
Regional Loyalty Cards to Boost the Economy
Investing your funding into an innovative loyalty scheme that covers your entire region can boost the local economy for healthy recovery. You can automatically collect data on consumer shopping and spending habits whilst encouraging them to return to the area, and businesses can optimise their own marketing and stockholding plans.
With an easy-to-use community loyalty app, retailers and customers can both benefit from long lasting retail improvements. It’s scalable so businesses can sign up after it has already launched, and you can also include temporary retailers, such as stallholders on market days.
Once government funding ends, retailers can decide whether or not to continue with the regional loyalty scheme as there’s no long-term commitment required upon sign up.
Interested in investing your authority’s Welcome Back Fund allocation into a regional community loyalty card? Find out more here or get in touch with one of our experts to find out how we can help boost your local economy.