Swansea BID has been at the forefront of looking after the interests of city centre businesses for the past 15 years. In May 2021 it will ballot its 870-or-so members for their support, so they can continue this work.
Here Russell Greenslade, Swansea BID’s Chief Executive, talks about what has been a deeply testing time for the high street, the things he is most proud of, and why Swansea has much to look forward to.
There has, perhaps, never been a more challenging time for our high streets than the past year – and 2021 will bring its own challenges too, as we all work to adjust to a changed landscape. However there have been many achievements, both from Swansea BID and from our BID area Businesses over the 15 years of our tenure in the city centre that I am incredible proud of. Here are some of them:
BID’s Covid-19 response
The pandemic and the national response to it has been such a mercurial situation that we have all had to be on our toes, to keep BID area businesses informed about regulations, responsibilities and financial support. We have become the go-to source of information for our business throughout this difficult time, with a rolling programme of clear communications.
The Businesses Covid-response
It has been heartening and very impressive to see our BID area businesses really step up to help our community, consumers and each other to get through the pandemic safely and well-served. Many of our food businesses and retailers have pivoted their operations and set up very effective takeaways, delivery services, and click and collect, to meet the changing needs of consumers. As a business ourselves we have been resilient providing clear leadership to our stakeholders and have repurposed our operations implementing innovative digital, data and technologies helping inform decisions and to plan for future stakeholder needs.
Best Bar None
We introduced the Home Office-backed scheme in Swansea city centre in 2019 and it recognises night-time businesses that are carrying out meaningful and ongoing training for staff, to ensure they are well-equipped to offer safe nights out for their customers and clients. Last year, 18 venues met the stringent Best Bar None assessment criteria an many were recognised in multiple categories. Best Bar None, in tandem with the Purple Flag status, are two hallmarks of quality and safety that will both help Swansea city centre’s valuable night-time economy get back on its feet in the year ahead.
Our Taxi and Night Marshals have dealt with over 2 million people helping ensure safe journey home for visitors whilst working with partners helping reduce anti-social behaviour and crime.
Additional Police Officers
We have funded more than 1,000 additional police officer hours, helping to reduce anti-social behaviour in the day, evening and night-time.
City Centre Rangers
Swansea BID’s funding towards the City Centre Ranger Service has helped deal with more than 100,000 activities and carried out more than 30,000 visits to businesses. Keeping a firm hold on the smooth running of the city centre helps to make it a welcoming place to visit, study in and work in.
The Big Heart of Swansea Brand
The red card and app has been a real boon to businesses, helping them be seen and heard by more than 6 million people. The brand gives businesses free promotion and publicity, has delivered more than 100 events in the city centre, and it offers the popular discount card and app – with over 155,000 in circulation. We plan to reinvigorate the brand in 2021 subject to a successful ballot.
Telling Businesses’ Stories
We have achieved more than £500,000 worth of positive media coverage for Swansea city centre and its businesses – about everything from city centre award wins, long-serving retail staff, our Extra Mile Award winners, parking offers, green initiative and more. There is more good news to come, so we intend to keep telling your stories.
Saving Firms Money
We have provided commercial business support, advice, guidance and valuable cost savings of over £565,000 to businesses and workers via our Bid Benefits offers. Recently this has included over 1,000 free PPE items, deals on business insurance, legal support and advertising, as well as grant support facilitation directly to businesses and investors of more than £847,000, to date.
One thing that comes through from my conversations with public, private and third sector is how the strength of our mature relationships – with Swansea Council, the universities, the police and other key organisations – help us to deliver for our stakeholders. We have worked hard to develop and maintain these and we will continue to lean upon them as our city centre develops. This is one of the great assets of being a BID that has been operating here in Swansea for many years.
We continue to see new retail and hospitality businesses opening their doors in Swansea and I am heartened to see people come up with fresh business concepts to attract consumers. If 2020 has been Swansea city centre’s most challenging year, then 2021 will be its most exciting and it is crucial that we keep our eye trained on that. The Swansea Bay City Deal development is unfolding all around us – Wind Street is set to get a £3M revamp and facelift, works will press ahead to transform the former Oceana club site on The Kingsway to deliver a multi-million-pound home for innovative tech and creative businesses, the go-ahead has been given to create a new St David’s Church Hall, and the much-anticipated new Swansea arena is scheduled to open in late 2021. The new public sector hub has been announced in the same area and Biophilic living building is planned for the Picton Lane area. We are continuing to work closely alongside the council and other partners helping enable a large number of projects that support the wider strategic plan to regenerate the city centre, develop more vibrancy, attract more footfall, support existing businesses and attract new investment.
I think one of the positives to come out of the protracted nature of the pandemic is that it has driven home the message to all interested parties that we must all become cheerleaders for our city centre and for Swansea as a whole. Investors are watching and assessing, and a steady drip of negativity can become a self-fulfilling prophesy. It can be a real stumbling block to the vitality of our area, so let’s leave it in the past. As stakeholders, we might have differing agendas, but we should also have a common goal – to support Swansea to be as successful as it can be.