MMU Business School has kicked off a unique bid to support eight declining High Streets and boost some of Britain’s 300,000 small, independent shops.
Eight towns have been chosen to participate in the AGORA project – a £2.7 million scheme to promote ‘bottom-up’ prosperity and collectivisation among retailers in High Streets in decline.
Delegates from Ludlow, Middlewich, Mexborough, Havant, Saltburn by the Sea, South Shields and the Longsight and Rusholme districts of Manchester gathered at MMU Business School on February 1 for a two-day ‘pilot seminar’ to beginning the programme of revitalisation.
AGORA – Greek for ‘marketplace – is using EU money to reverse the trend to so-called clone towns by sharing innovative practice and training for retailers, town centre managers and other people with a stake in the future of their shopping area. Eight towns were chosen from a short-list of 22.
Town representatives have been introduced to a 18-month programme of events, measures and training by retail experts from the University’s Retail Enterprise Network’s (REN) and co-organiser the Association of Town Centre Management.
AGORA lead academic Cathy Parker said: “Around 60% of our town centres are in decline. This is a national private-public partnership which will empower local communities in mainly deprived areas to manage their town following sustainable social enterprise management models, ensuring the district is run for the benefit of traders and the community.
“This community-led approach will ensure that local people have a vital input into regeneration and a stake in the future.”
During the programme, the towns will benefit from much-needed support through resources, expertise and collective working. Towns also receive a boost in technology, including access to an online AGORA intranet where they can network with other areas in similar positions to themselves.
The scheme follows research by the Retail Enterprise Network which showed that independent traders were failing to work together to survive and were generally disappointed with the impact of trader and business associations.