Mr BIG encouraged traders to participate in a loyalty reward scheme this year, with cards being delivered to thousands of homes around Market Rasen in the weeks before the promotion began. Shoppers could collect stamps on their Christmas Tree card at participating shops, for spending £5 in the shop. The first prize in the draw was an amazing prize of £1000 travel voucher was very generously sponsored by Lincolnshire Co-operative, who have been so supportive of the town and town events to match the £500 donated by Mr BIG. Eleven of the high street retailers donated prizes to a minimum value of £50 each. “It was brilliant,” said Bridget Pitman-Brand, owner of the Market Rasen pet shop. “It really, really worked. People were coming into my shop to buy cat food simply because of the loyalty card – they usually buy elsewhere.” The big draw took place on Christmas Eve outside the Lincolnshire Co-operative Travel Shop in Market Rasen, and the first prize of a £1000 travel voucher was awarded to Vikki Bakin and a lot of other prizes were won by people all over the town.
The owners are particularly looking to understand more about the history of the building and any ideas the general public may have for how the property might be brought back to worthwhile use for the benefit of the Town.
During this series we will be meeting some of the people who are really helping to make Market Rasen great. These are our High Street Heroes: those people who work along the high street doing their level best to promote and support the effort to regenerate our town.
Our first hero is Alan Thompson. Alan has been working at Boots on Market Rasen High Street for the past 6 years. We popped in to join him in presenting an award to Hazel Barnard for her winning entry in MR BIG’s “Most Interesting Picture in Market Rasen” Competition and we managed to catch up with Alan afterwards to ask him a few questions.
Now we all know the town population has expanded rapidly since Alan came to Market Rasen in 2007 and has been rising for some time. There’s nowhere that feels the pressure of coping with these changes quite like a pharmacy, so we asked him how the Market Rasen Boots has managed to maintain such an excellent standard of service. “Boots is very keen on customer service. We’re very aware of our responsibility of being trusted with people’s health care. We carry out our own customer surveys at all stores. Now, of course we don’t always get it right but we can compare results and share examples daily.”
With Alan in charge, the Market Rasen Boots store has also done a number of things to support MR BIG. The prize camera donated as part of the sponsorship for Plank 2013, Market Rasen’s Art Council England funded Arts & Craft Festival in February, is just one example of the ways in which Alan is helping to make a difference. He explained to us that Boots as a company is eager to support the scheme to improve the high street, as well as backing Mary Portas in her mission. “We will always try to help wherever we’re asked. It may be small things, for instance gifts for the Christmas market or advice and expertise, but we are always happy to help in some way.”
We asked Alan for his thoughts on MR BIG and how it has helped the town centre. “I can really see the difference. Honestly, I know some people have made negative remarks but it certainly has made a big difference to the high street and to this very store, in fact. It’s sometimes things people don’t necessarily see, but we’ve had our garden cleared and the store generally cleaned up. We can see that the building over the road has been decorated as well and that’s all really down to MR BIG. The building over the road Mary Portas even mentioned herself on her visit and you can see the difference made since then”
Finally, we asked Alan for his thoughts on the future of the Market Rasen high street. “I think we will make progress. The high street isn’t going to be what it was but it’s so important to support independent traders and to create opportunities for it to become something new. I like the idea of making it more of a social area and I know there are some plans for that. I hope we can make the whole place more interesting for younger people as well.”
With High Street Heroes like Alan and all the help he gives, we think the future looks very promising indeed. But what do you think of the future of our high street? And who are your high street heroes? Let us know by commenting below or telling us on our Visit Market Rasen facebook page.
Recently around the town centre you may have noticed there have been some fantastic changes. Not only have shops been sprucing up out front with a lick of paint thanks to help from those at JK Building Maintenance but there are new planters at the train station and, with the help of the community payback scheme, the telephone box in the marketplace has been painted and the bench has been replaced. The Advocate Arms has also installed a new sign outside their building.
The new facelift in Market Rasen is a very welcome sight as one of the promises made by MR BIG to the Portas Pilot Scheme was that the town centre would be tidied up.
Darren Lince, Property and Commercial Volunteer Director, who is leading the Town Tidy Up initiative was extremely happy to see the new changes. “As a local business owner I am delighted that we’re seeing so many other businesses on the High Street further enhancing their properties and this includes Town & Country Carpets, Rhodes and McColl’s. We also have a commitment that when The White Swan is purchased from the administrators (of the Freehold title) that will also be “spruced up”.
When these improvements are combined with the enhancements at The Goldmine, the old Halifax building and the opening of Greens as well as the painting of all the metalwork around the Market Place and many more positive advances it is great to have some positive news to balance the negative and inaccurate picture of Market Rasen portrayed recently on BBC Look North.
Market Rasen High Street still has plenty of room for improvement, we still have a couple of empty premises and it is still very tough out there for retailers and small businesses, but we are not seeing the decline that many High Streets have suffered. In fact our High Street looks and feels so much better than it did twelve months ago.
The challenge to WLDC, The Town Council, Mr Big and local businesses is to make further improvements and enhancements to try to keep more local shoppers in town and attract more spending visitors and businesses to Market Rasen, to further enhance the retail and service experience and ultimately to make the High Street sustainable for the long term future.
On Saturday 13th July, Market Rasen Town Council will be hosting OUR BIG GIG. It’s bound to create a great buzz and atmosphere within the town centre and, like its name, it’s going to be BIG! The gig itself will provide great entertainment for people of all ages with a passion for music and dancing, and some opportunities to take part too.
The day’s events start from 10am and run right through until midnight. Each of the events will be held in different places: the Festival Hall, the Committee Room, St Thomas’s, the Market Place, The Chase, the Methodist Chapel, and the Salvation Army Citadel.
The main focus of these fantastic events is to encourage people from within the local area to come along and participate in some of the many great musical workshops which will be taking place. It’ll be a fab way to get involved in making and writing some beautiful music!
As well as the workshops there will also be some amazing musical acts to see, with the likes of Jay Tyrer, Jimmy Needes, Wizards Sleeve and many more. We’ll also be expecting to see some fantastic performances from the Sequence Dancing Group and St Thomas’s Bell Ringers. And throughout the day in the Market Place there will be buskers and a street organ to serenade the crowds.
It is definitely going to be a great day and evening so come along and TAKE PART!
Around Christmas time last year, we drew up a bid and submitted it to government, explaining some of the great things we’ve achieved in Market Rasen and outlining some further ideas we would like to implement to continue our journey to re-invigorate the High Street.
We were one of 55 towns who applied (and submitted videos) and only 7 towns were given the award. In the words of our representative from Government – we are a truly exceptional town. We asked for £79K, But we were awarded £101,057. . .and it’s taken us a little while to find out why, which is why we’ve not been super-quick to announce the details of the win. We wanted to get our facts straight.
So here they are.
Our bid was formed from the ideas laid down in our town transformation plan, written with the input of traders and business people back in February 2012. It builds on the four promises laid down in our Portas bid: Town Tidy Up, Markets, Shopping and Marketing and Promotion to drive footfall.
This bid includes a host of activites, they include:
Town Tidy Up
‘Operation Ice Cream’ which will create a fund to help shop owners and businesses repaint their shop frontages
- Gardening initiatives, including community groups and schools to improve unloved areas of the town
- Love Your Street – a scheme to encourage groups to ‘adopt’ and care for areas of our town
- Management fund to ensure we can continue to host BIG monthly markets and to continue to fund our Town Centre Manager for a 2nd year
- Funds to try new and different markets formats to keep things fresh and exciting
- Work with local councils and transport providers to provide market day buses and trains from Lincoln and Grimsby.
- Community cafe with gallery space and family friendly facilities and visitor information.
- Personal shopping service and outreach for vulnerable people and people without access to transport.
- Develop overnight accommodation provision and ensure our visitors have a VIP experience
- Formal support package for start-up businesses
- Improving the visitor experience through signage and information.
- Shop Local campaign
- Regional tourist promotions to create a branded offer to visitors, showcasing our towns assets including Racecourse, outdoor activities as a Lincolnshire Wolds Town, Biker events, Food Tourism etc.
- Promote Market Rasen and surrounding villages regionally as cultural destination for arts and crafts
As you can see, there’s a lot to do here and the money we’ve won is allocated in small portions against each of these activities, so we need to think carefully about what projects we undertake in what order.
There is no deadline on when we spend the money and we’ve still got approximately 50% of our Portas funds left – so there are plenty of projects on the go already.
We were keen to understand why the Government had awarded us an extra £22K. The answer is that these funds are there to help us make our projects sustainable – so to pay for the people resources required to keep things moving, but also to help us spread news of our projects by networking with other town teams. They are not to be allocated to new and additional projects to those outlined in our bid.
In the couple of weeks since the X Fund win was announced in the national media, I’ve been approached by a handful of concerned townspeople, who were worried or unclear about the purpose and remit of MR BIG. First, a number of people expressed concern about the idea of having a ‘community cafe’ as part of our plans and that it would encroach on other eateries in town. To be clear – there is a limited budget of £10K against this activity and the focus will be on creating a family-friendly environment that fulfils a number of different functions for residents and visitors. The location and format of this initiative is not agreed and the opportunity will be tendered out at a date tbc for local businesses or groups to ‘bid’ to take this activity forward.
Secondly, I’ve been asked on many occasions for MR BIG to extend the scope of works to tackle a host of different issues the town faces. Again, we want to be clear that as a business improvement group there is a limit and focus to our remit that is around regenerating our High Street and businesses within Market Rasen. Activities that encourage business growth will continue to be our primary focus. Whilst these may have benefits to the overall community as a whole, our Group is not a catch-all for every issue our town faces.
Our Board takes time and care to ensure that we remain true to the vision we set right at the outset at the beginning of 2012 – which was to make Market Rasen a more inviting place to be and to drive the footfall on the High Street that will benefit local businesses so that they, in turn can invest in our town.
In light of recent feedback from our members, we will be looking to meet with them more regularly and informally over the months ahead, so we can continue to canvass the views, opinions and ideas that have been critical to our success thus far.
Sara Scott – Chair MR BIG