How Bristol City Centre BID is spearheading Bristol’s bounce back on the high-street

Victoria Matthews
Initiative Manager | Business West
27th October 2020

Retail, leisure and hospitality has been amongst the hardest hit sectors as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

With non-essential retailers shuttered from mid-March until June this year, and bars, cafés and restaurants not reopening until July, Bristol city centre came out of lockdown and back to (socially distanced) life this summer.

Bucking the national trend, footfall in Bristol was much stronger in July and August when compared to many other towns and cities across the UK, this is despite the economic recession, falling consumer confidence and safety concerns. That being so, Bristol’s retailers, publicans and restaurateurs must be congratulated for their hard work and dedication ensuring they were safe to open and COVID secure and for helping to bring people back into the city centre.

Working behind the scenes and supporting our retail and hospitality businesses all the way was Bristol City Centre BID, who played a crucial role in getting the message out that Bristol city centre is open for business.

Standing for Business Improvement District (BID), Bristol City Centre BID is a collaboration of 763 retail, leisure and hospitality businesses working together to make Bristol city centre an even better place for everyone. Its aim is to ensure Bristol city centre is increasingly known for its safe, attractive and welcoming look and feel by all those who work, study, live and spend leisure time in the city.

Bristol City Centre BID achieves this aim through a number of initiatives. These include Streetwise – a project to address anti-social behaviour in the centre; the Night-time PurpleFlag Scheme – which sees Safeguarding Marshals patrol the streets at weekends; and special events such as Bristol Light Festival – which brought an estimated £6m economic benefit for city and an additional 100,000 visitors over 4 days.

Following the outbreak of coronavirus, Bristol City Centre BID has come into its own.

As lockdown measures were eased, Bristol City Centre BID launched the hugely successful #BristolTogether Campaign, supported by Bristol City Council and Business West. #BristolTogether saw 374 socially distanced hearts dotted across the city in a marketing and social media campaign that went viral reaching over 61 million people across the UK.

What’s more they had more than 600 requests from levy payers for advice and support in the six months to September. Bristol City Centre BID were actively engaged in providing advice on how shops can re-open safely and updated government guidance and helping businesses with their marketing to ensure people have confidence coming back into the city centre and their offices. 

In total the BID engaged 420 businesses through their COVID-19 hub, newsletters and webinars and provided advice and guidance on the relaxing of licensing rules by the government. 

Keith Rundle, Operations Director at Bristol City Centre, has been leading the BID since its inception in November 2017, and comments:

“COVID-19 continues to present an existential threat to our retail, hospitality and leisure industries. Not only does the sector provide thousands of jobs, it is one of the reasons why Bristol is viewed by many as a desirable place to live, work and invest.

“Despite the challenging circumstances, I am proud of the achievements of our levy payers, who have responded positively to the pandemic to ensure everyone’s safety and bring people back to the city centre.

“With the Christmas period approaching, Bristol City Centre BID will be working tirelessly to support levy payers make the most of what is normally our busiest three months of the year.

“Undoubtedly things will be different this year, without Christmas parties and businesses operating at reduced capacity. That being so, we need to get the message out loud and clear that Bristol city centre is open for business in order to ensure that the sector survives into 2021.”

Into the future, Bristol City Centre BID has a number of projects lined up to support and enable businesses to weather these increasingly challenging times. From place intelligence work tracking footfall and demographic data of people using the city centre, to the return of Bristol Light Festival in 2021, Bristol City Centre BID stands with Bristol’s retailers, pubs, bars, cafes and restaurants, who make our city so unique.

Bristol City Centre BID is delivered by Destination Bristol, which was established as a joint venture between Business West and Bristol City Council in 1999.

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