Champions Round Table
Retail and Visitor Economy
Rupert Carr, Director of Birchall Properties the company behind the £400 million Peak Resort, has said that his decision to locate the development in Chesterfield was based on three key reasons – location, location, location.
More than 15 million people are within a two-hour drive of Chesterfield and Peak Resort will be capitalising on this by offering nearly 1000 beds across two hotels and lodge accommodation. Further hotel accommodation is planned at the £320million Chesterfield Waterside development and at the former Co-Op on Elder Way, which is soon to be transformed into an 89-bedroom hotel and restaurant space.
With an opportunity for many more visitors to be brought into Chesterfield, does the town have what it takes to attract them and keep them here and make the most of the opportunity? That was the question asked at this month’s round table, organised by Destination Chesterfield in conjunction with the Derbyshire Times.
Key figures from the town’s retail and visitor economy came together at Chesterfield’s only fully covered shopping centre, The Pavements Shopping Centre, to discuss how the town can give visitors the best experience to ensure they keep coming back.
JR: Julia Rodgerson – Content Editor at the Derbyshire Times
CM: Colin McKenna – Church Warden and Gift Shop Manager at the Crooked Spire Church
IG: Ian Godfrey – Director at Solved it! Business Solutions
NC: Nick Chischniak – Representational Manager at the East Midlands Chamber
DS: Dominic Stevens – Manager of Destination Chesterfield
JCH: Jan Clarke-Humphries – Manager of The Pavements Shopping Centre
With Peak Resort now on site and the first phase expected to open in spring 2018, how can Chesterfield businesses prepare for the new visitors this will bring and ensure they choose to spend time and money in the town?
CM: I think that making people feel welcome is the important part to ensuring that visitors spend time and money in the town. It’s not just a matter of having a good range of shops, which Chesterfield does have, but it’s about making sure visitors are met with welcoming people. Businesses need to think ‘how can I make these people feel welcome.’
JCH: I think that welcoming people in is important, but we lack the signage to get them in and around the town centre and we need to improve links from Ravenside to the town centre.
DS: It’s not just about physical signage though, it’s about making sure that people on the frontline in shops can have a conversation with people about what’s going on in the town. I think that everybody who is involved with the town centre as a business, has a role to play in being an ambassador for Chesterfield. A lot of people will be staying at Peak Resort, and they’ll have a choice of going to the Peak District, Sheffield, or Chesterfield. It’s about making sure that visitors are aware of the opportunities in the town centre and making sure they enjoy the time they spend there.
DS: Peak Resort will offer three or four hotels, a training university campus, cycling and leisure facilities and other entertainment elements. The idea of the resort is to get the visitors who are staying there to visit the areas around them during their stay. We need to look at what businesses can offer to give visitors a unique experience.
IG: If you look at towns that thrive, they’ve got an identity. We’ve got the Crooked Spire, but what else is there? We need to develop an identity and that needs to be led by the public sector. For a period of time, the town has tried to be all things to all people, but that will never work. With the Peak Resort, we’ve got to understand that we’re going up against indirect competition with Sheffield. We can’t compete with Sheffield on retail so we need to create a strong identity for Chesterfield.
JCH: If you come into town on a Thursday when it’s market day and the sun’s shining, it’s vibrant and a fantastic experience. We need to get them into town, welcome them, give them somewhere to park or provide them with the public transport.
DS: We need to look at what Chesterfield’s experience is for visitors. We’ve got an improving range of restaurants and some brilliant independent traders that can offer visitors a bespoke service.
JR: Do you think the night-time economy is successful in Chesterfield?
IG: No. I think people finish work and go home. You can’t say to people go home and come back, you have to keep them here. The 11:00pm night time economy will never be for the 50-70 year olds, but you can encourage that age group to come in the evening and eventually the age demographic will change.
NC: We’re all very familiar with what the town offers but it’s a case of banging that drum a little bit louder through the likes of Destination Chesterfield and the Chamber. Together we can connect the dots a bit more effectively to those people that didn’t realise they were part of the supply chain for Peak Resort. The stuff that we take for granted, we could promote on a wider basis whilst still managing our expectations. We need to work together to be bold, innovative and creative.
IG: I think there is scope to look at what the town centre hasn’t got and then try and encourage people to develop businesses around that.
CM: We need to look at what we have that we aren’t exploiting as well as we could do. The church has done just that and employed a Business Development Manager to help us.
DS: One thing that businesses can do is let Destination Chesterfield know when things are happening so that we can talk about it and help promote it.
NC: As long as businesses have got a vehicle to come forward then they’re never going to be shy about telling us what’s happening. We need to make sure that we don’t repeat the mistakes that other towns make where businesses spend too much time competing with each other.
IG: If you look at other towns they have things like ale trails. That gets people walking in and around the town and is a great way to showcase the place. Pubs need to work together rather than competing with each other. There’s a plethora of historic pubs and the main focal point has got to be the Crooked Spire and linking that to the market place.
The town, once again, hosts the Women’s Tour Cycle Race this summer. Large scale events attract footfall to the town, generate positive media coverage for the area, and can also encourage participation in sport. What role should Chesterfield businesses be playing in supporting these types of events to ensure they are a success and more are developed in the town?
JCH: We’re involved in the Women’s Tour Cycle Race as a shopping centre. Vicar Lane and the Market are also involved. The cycling is an event that we are all trying to get behind and we are trying to get everyone involved in it. They are actually going to start and finish in the town this year, so hopefully we can keep the people in the town from the start to the finish.
IG: We need to keep the juggernaut rolling and talk the event up. You have to got to be realistic though, it’s not going to create much retail business on the day but it is going to make people aware of what’s here in the town for the future. The small cafés and eateries will benefit on the day.
NC: It’s a communal effort. The event is only going to be as good as the effort that the town puts into it. It is a positive thing for the town, but we can all help by getting our staff involved in things and using other businesses that have got involved previously as case studies etc. to inspire other businesses.
DS: I think that with every event you put on, there is always going to be winners and losers depending on what event it is. However, you will start to build a reputation so that people are always thinking that there is going to be something going on in Chesterfield. Another thing to think about is the health and wellbeing of the people in the town as this event will encourage people to take part in sports.
CM: One-off events like this are important, and it does give the town a reputation that something is always happening there. I think that the businesses need to realise that they might not make money on the day but, more people will be aware that they are there.
IG: Looking at parking for the event; why don’t businesses who have got a few parking spaces offer them out on the day? It’s about thinking in that sort of way and getting your name out there whilst you help the town.
CM: For us, outside of the Christmas Tree festival, the biggest day as a retailer is the Medieval Fun Day. It brings the entertainment value as well as the market.
NC: Events taking place encourage people like me to stop as I’m passing by.
CM: If you base something around a market, then most people will come into the area with the idea of buying something. However, the entertainment is what will keep them there.
Recent reports show people spending more of their weekly disposable income on recreation, culture, restaurants and experiences. How should Chesterfield adapt to this to encourage footfall and increase dwell time in the town centre?
DS: We started the Food and Drink Awards five years ago now and the reason for that was that there was a changing scene. Over the past year, there must have been 10 restaurants and bars opening in the town centre, and that wouldn’t be happening if people weren’t spending money on eating out.
NC: I think we need to get visitors to stay out during tea time and into the evening.
DS: The growth we’ve seen in the town with the range and quality of the products offered is good. However, there is still scope for more investments, with the need more family-orientated restaurants to fill the gaps in the night time economy.
IG: Some businesses should look at not opening quite so early in the morning and staying open a little bit later.
CM: We need good parking, public transport and access from the public transport stations to the town. If people get off a bus on Beetwell Street at night, they’ll just hop back on and go somewhere else. Anti-social behaviour has become an issue in the town.
JCH: The issue of the homelessness in Chesterfield has been around for over 20 years, but it’s getting worse now due to the drugs and the alcohol. They have become extremely hostile.
CM: Our town centre police are doing a cracking job, but if we can have another voice for them that will help massively.