Market Rasen’s town team has made much use of social media to talk about what it is doing. But we’re also using the more traditional “posters slap-bang in the town centre” approach. This week we’ve displayed an FAQ and PROGRESS REPORT in an empty shop window along with lots of nice photos, to reach all the town, especially those people not online.  The FAQ on the notice board is reproduced here:

What is a Portas Pilot Town?

The Portas Pilot competition was launched in February 2012 by retail expert Mary Portas and the Local Government Minister Grant Shapps. Any town in the UK could enter, with the 12 winners getting around £100,000 each to help turn around their “unloved and unused” high streets.

“I’m offering a golden ticket to 12 town centres across the country to become ‘Portas Pilots’ – areas with the vision and enthusiasm to breathe new life into what should be the beating heart of their communities, and they will get Mary’s and my support as they try out the ideas in her recent review.” Grant Shapps MP.

Market Rasen was one of the 12 to win the “golden ticket”, beating off competition from 370 other towns in the UK.

“I’ve been deeply touched by both the quality and creativity of the bids and the momentum Britain’s first town teams have generated in just a few short weeks. It is now clearer to me than ever that Britain wants its town centres revitalised and the energy and accountability for that needs to rest with the people who live and do business there. My sincere congratulations to everyone who entered.” Mary Portas

MR BIG (the Market Rasen Business Improvement Group) created that winning bid. This included a 20 page bid document and seven minute video, which achieved 1000 YouTube views in its first weekend!

Who are MR BIG?

MR BIG is new in town, but we already represent 70 local businesses – people who live and work here – people who really care about the town’s future. We’ve also got many local organisations and over 250 individuals involved in what we do, offering us help and advice, and seeking our help and advice too! And we’re looking for more…

Our first meeting was on the 20th February 2012, attended by 40+ traders and business owners from Market Rasen. We held two ideas generation sessions hot on the heels of one another and filled sheets and sheets of output outlining our challenges and opportunities.
These ideas created the skeleton of a Town Transformation Plan (available online and in the town’s library), and gave us a fantastic blueprint for our Portas bid too.

MARCH – 40 business people attend a meeting and generate 40 strategies to tackle the town’s problems. Out of this meeting comes two big things: the Market Rasen Business Improvement Group (MR BIG) and the Portas Pilot bid.

We’re continuing to build and flesh that plan out, day by day and week by week.
In order to administer the funds, MR BIG has become a formally constituted CIC (Community Interest Company), with paid-for membership and an elected Board of  volunteer directors, each tackling a different aspect of the plan.

These people are:

• Angela Montague (Push Creativity) Social Media & PR
• Darren Lince (Advocate Homes) Commercial & Property
• David Riley (J A D Associates) Non-Trader Liaison
• Jackie Smith (Beltec Ltd) Markets
• John Matthews (Beechwood Guesthouse) Logistics
• Ken Greenwood (Rasen Hardware & DIY) Trader Liaison
• Richard Hallsworth (Nicholsons Accountants) Finance & Secretary
• Sara Scott (brand thing) Marketing & Chair
• Sarah Lamballe (Sarah Lamballe Copywriting) Community, Arts & Culture
• Chris Cocking (Lincolnshire Cooperative) Sustainable Shopping

What are you doing for the town?

Our Portas Pilot plan is split into four key ideas:

• Town tidy up
• “Putting the market back into Market Rasen”
• A sustainable shopping strategy (including supporting talented start-ups)
• ‘Pulling in the punters’ with innovative marketing ideas

How much money did you win?

As a Portas Pilot town, Market Rasen now has a fund of £98,599 – a retail price if ever there was one! Here’s how we are allocating this money to achieve the big ideas in our Town Transformation Plan:

• Town Tidy Project – £4,000
• Market regeneration – £37,000
• Sustainable shopping – £45,049
• Promotion – £12,000
• Administration – £550

The budget includes funding for a part-time town manager, retail apprentice and Pop-Up shop, together with two major food festivals or markets.

Who’s keeping track of the money?

We believe it’s important for us to keep people up to date in terms of where the money we have been given is being spent. We want to be transparent in all of our financial affairs and will therefore be publishing full financial statements every year instead of abbreviated ones and will also be also publishing quarterly internal accounts.

The ladies at Style Studio in our ‘Love Market Rasen’ tees. Along with big shoppers and umbrellas, these tees are part of our sustainable shopping plan. Shop with one of these to access local offers and discounts!
We’re also adopting strict procurement rules and having our accounts checked by WLDC. Our company rules also don’t allow directors to be paid for their work.

 What have you achieved? 

The initial results of our Town Tidy up are becoming visible around Market Rasen. Landlords and property owners have undertaken extensive works to improve shop frontages and tidy up grot spots. Additionally a new ‘heritage palette’ of colours has been agreed with West Lindsey District Council to encourage renovations that are ‘in keeping’ with our traditional townscape.

MR BIG has successfully run five BIG markets, the first being our Extraordinary Pop-up Market, ahead of the win, with additional markets in July and September. The numbers of traders coming forward for stalls is growing steadily, thanks to a concerted marketing and communications programme and strong market planning and logistics capability.

MARKET DATES FOR 2013 are: January 5th, February 2nd, March 2nd, April 6th, May 4th, July 6th, September 7th, October 5th, November 2nd and December 7th. We have formed a working party with the Town Council to look at how we can ensure that our regular weekly markets begin to benefit from our Portas learnings.

Volunteer directors David Riley, Sara Scott and Sarah Lamballe on the MR BIG market stall
MR BIG has teamed up with corporate sponsor, Lindum Group and will be opening our first “retail incubator” ahead of Christmas 2012. This will be located at 27 Market Place (the old Halifax building). We are currently inviting interest from fledgling retailers who are interested in taking space in this shop. Initial response is very encouraging.

MR BIG is also set to reinstate an independent fruit and vegetable shop on our High Street as a venue to celebrate the very best of Lincolnshire produce and give some of our foodie market traders the opportunity to secure a permanent presence on our High Street.

Our training and development programme is taking shape and will be ready to launch in tandem with our retail units. The offer includes a series of breakfast briefings to provide fast, easy access to relevant business services and information, boot camps and master classes, plus one-to-one free consultancy services for start-ups and a business ‘buddy’ scheme.

To date, our marketing activity has focused around promoting Market dates, with posters, flyers, offers and discounts, plus a host of PR and social media activity to promote footfall into town in between times.

Our ‘I love MKT RSN’ Merchandise and big bag scheme was aimed to promote pride and loyalty amongst local shoppers. T-shirts and bags can secure shoppers deals and discounts along the High Street, and some of our merchandise has been shipped to supporters around the world.

We continue to develop excellent relationships with local and national media and have achieved several TV features on BBC and ITV, as well as regular coverage in a host of newspapers and journals across the region.

We have surveyed opinions of both traders and shoppers – this vital market research will help to support the development of our plans over the year ahead.

Our FANTASTIC Peep Boards, big attractions at our markets. Pictured is Jamie Taylor of Jackson Building Centres who donated the materials, with BIG thanks to artist Emma Brown who created the three boards for FREE.

We are currently talking to the University of Lincoln about the development of longer term marketing materials that will help us promote ourselves to shoppers and tourists in 2013.
MR BIG has teamed up with mobile loyalty scheme operator (Tik Tap). This technology is operated by the same company responsible for Orange Wednesdays. The scheme sees Market Rasen operating a one year pilot to enable participating traders to make virtual offers to shoppers.

The BIG Board has a schedule of key presentation dates organised that will continue to raise the profile of Market Rasen as an innovator and leader in Town Transformation, with a view to securing additional funding beyond the initial pilot period.

How do I contact MR BIG?

Click this link to visit our contact page.

If I don’t have email facilities?

Please write us a note (including your name and contact number) and drop it into the high street businesses where our directors work – Rasen Hardware, The Advocate, Nicholsons Accountants or the CG Partnership. A director will get back to you in person about your query.

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