Rotherham successful in Portas bid

Mary Portas.
Mary Portas.

TOWN centre businesses in Rotherham are celebrating the borough’s success in securing a big cash injection.

The town has won through the latest round of the ‘Portas Pilot’ project and will receive £100,000 from the Government scheme.

The project was launched in the wake of the nationwide review of town centres by Mary ‘Queen of Shops’ Portas.

Now traders will see the extension of the grants to shops and businesses that helped Rotherham buck the national trend in visitor numbers over the last ten months.

The £100,000 provided by the Portas project will be match funded by £100,000 from British Land, the owners of Parkgate Shopping Park, who work closely with the authority to ensure that each of the Rotherham based shopping destinations compliment each other.

The cash will help around 70 existing town centre retailers to grow and develop. Businesses will also be able to target customers more effectively with improved marketing and branding.

The existing Business Vitality Grants Scheme allows up to £7,500 of capital funding to be allocated to businesses which can positively contribute to the town’s shopping experience and bring something different to the High Street.

Bespoke marketing and branding training will be available, with grant funding of up to £1,000 per applicant for specific schemes.

A ‘Shopper Experience’ will be based on traditional mystery shopping but with an innovative twist. The shopper assessments are conducted by a professional business mentor who will work with individual businesses to implement changes.

Coun. Gerald Smith, Rotherham Council’s Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Development, described it as “brilliant news” for Rotherham and the shopping public.

The funding will allow the authority and its partners to build on the success and hard work that is on-going in the town centre, he said, adding: “We have been doing a huge amount of work to get people back to the town centre and footfall figures over the last ten months show that this is working.

“This funding will allow us and our partners to build on that success and to continue with projects that will give our local shops and businesses the necessary vision for the future.

“Our successful bid encourages and supports businesses to improve their standards, customer-base and profitability, which in turn will ultimately encourage residents to Shop Local!”

Representatives from Rotherham will be attending a national meeting in London of all the Portas Pilots later this year. The event will be attended by Mary Portas and a Minister and will provide an opportunity for Rotherham to share its plans and experiences with other pilot schemes.

The September meeting will take place a year after Mary visited Rotherham as part of an independent nationwide review to see what could be done to promote the development of more prosperous and diverse high streets.

Mary, who turned Harvey Nichols into a household name before launching her BBC2 programme, Mary Queen of Shops, gave Rotherham the thumbs up.

She said: “New traders have been grateful to Rotherham Council for actually getting behind them. To bring new retailers back into town requires financial support, management support and business support, which I found quite inspiring.”