Harrogate BID’s hat-trick of initiatives proves a winning combination for town centre trade

A hat-trick of initiatives supported – and promoted – by Harrogate BID has proved a winning combination for town centre businesses.

In its first year, the organisation – set up to increase footfall within Harrogate town centre – has sponsored free busses, launched a gift card and contributed to a bi-monthly magazine promoting the town, its businesses and events.

Thanks to the support of Harrogate BID and two local companies, bus operator Transdev was able to launch and run for 12 months Sunday Freeway – a free service to and from the town on its fleet of electric buses.

Beginning in March 2019, the first month alone saw the Harrogate Electric fleet – which link Bilton, Dene Park, The Knox, Jennyfield and Pannal Ash with the town centre –  carry 70 per cent more passengers than it did in the same month the previous year.

For its part, BID supported the Sunday Freeway from October to December, giving a much-needed boost to town centre shops before Christmas. During this period, Trandsev, reported its highest figures when, in November, it carried 90 per cent more people than it did during November 2018.

BID then sponsored the Sunday Freeway again in February, ensuring the complimentary service completed a full year’s operation.

Over the period of 55 Sundays, the fleet of green vehicles carried up to 90 per cent more customers than they did in the subsequent period. This equated to 77,000 journeys and, more importantly, an estimated £1.1m positive impact on Harrogate’s economy.

And since its launch last November, more than 330 Harrogate Gift Cards have sold, with a combined value of over £17k being pre-loaded on to them. This means the money stays right here, within the local economy, and more than 90 businesses have signed up to the scheme.

Additionally, BID’s collaboration with the Harrogate Review, saw it highlighting businesses, the people behind them, and events taking place within the town’s four quarters – West Park, Victoria, Kings and Montpellier – between June last year and April 2020.

A total of 20 “BID” pages in each of the five bi-monthly publications were devoted to promoting a mixture of shops, bars, eateries, activities and interviews with business owners.

Several thousand issues of the Harrogate Review were delivered free to hundreds of different outlets including hotels, shops, businesses and public venues in and around the town.

Simon Kent from Harrogate BID said: “These are just three of a number of initiatives we have delivered in our first year to support and promote our town centre. And I’m delighted to say all have been a success in their own right.

“Without a shadow of a doubt, Transdev’s Sunday Freeway has been an absolute runaway success.

“The statistics from Transdev make incredibly pleasing reading, and it’s superb to see how many people took advantage of free travel into the town centre.

“In just a few months The Harrogate Gift Card, which had proved very popular with traders, has contributed to keeping £17k within the local economy, which is phenomenal.

“The five editions of Harrogate Review that we have been key contributor to has helped promote the town centre ‘Quarters’, and again demonstrates our commitment to the town centre.”

Simon added: “Before the Coronavirus lockdown, we were in the process of  announcing a number BID-backed projects to help attract locals, and visitors,  to Harrogate, and in particular to the town centre.

“These included VE Day celebrations featuring a Spitfire taking centre stage next to the Cenotaph; a fire garden within the Valley Gardens; and a town centre ice rink in the run up to Christmas.

“We are now working behind the scenes reviewing and re-planning. Once we know when the restrictions are to be lifted, we will then be able to announce our intentions for the rest of the year.”