New Year off to great start

Published on 29 December 2016

Town centre traders had a “Christmas Cracker’ with the Business Improvement District (BID) ‘Love Bedford’ promotion campaign helping to attract hundreds of thousands of customers who put millions of pounds into local tills. 

BedfordBID Director Christina Rowe said: “The big boost started with people coming into the town centre for the start of late night shopping and the Christmas lights switch-on day of November 24th. From 3pm onwards people piled in to see Santa and the TV dance crew Boogie Storm at Harpur Square. The footfall figures rose and rose compared to last year’s switch on day and provided ample opportunity for town centre shops to show people what they had to offer. The proof of the success of Bedford’s switch on day is that compared to last year our footfall was up 4.7% when the rest of the South East’s shopping was down 5.6%. In the week commencing December 5th Bedford was up 7.8% compared to a drop of 8% in the South East.

“Once again Bedford is bucking the trend in keeping customers coming back.

Said Harpur Centre Manager and BedfordBID Chair, Sam Laycock: “We are delighted to have seen the Love Bedford-led town team work has paid off.

“Free parking undoubtedly helps, but the good news has to reach far and wide and the BedfordBID’s Love Bedford regional advertising campaign made sure people in a wide radius knew how much we have on offer.

“We also found that the discount codes to visit Santa were taken up well via the Love Bedford Christmas magazine. In fact visits to Santa were up 4% compared to last year.

“Bedford is a great place to be in business right now. With the Harpur Centre under new ownership and celebrating its 40th anniversary in 2017, and also with the classical Victorian Arcade in different hands, investment is pouring in.

“The multi-million Riverside North development with cinema, shops and more opens in 2017 and is expected to bring 100,000s of visitors to the town centre.”

Bedford Business Improvement District is a legalised zone where all but the smallest businesses pay a levy into a pot managed by those same businesses.

BedfordBID Director Christina Rowe added:

“Bedford was one of the pilot BIDs back in 2005 and now another 200 have followed across the UK. We have tried and tested the system whereby businesses pay into a pot which they then manage improving and marketing their trading environment. The largest organisations pay the most, the smallest do not pay but get all the benefits. They all are promoted under the Love Bedford banner.

“The fact that Bedford’s footfall continues to go up whereas other county and market towns are in decline, shows the influence the BID has to speak up for businesses and consumers.

“In 2017 we hope to reach £1 Million Love Bedford gift voucher sales. These are available on-line for the first time via but are redeemed in town by 270 different businesses.”

January sales are now underway in many stores in town, with others coming in to spend their Christmas money and vouchers they were given as gifts. 

Love Bedford gift vouchers make a good gift all year round and can now be bought on-line. BedfordBID is encouraging companies based in the Borough to back Bedford by offering the vouchers as rewards for customers and staff. Bedford College has reinvested hundreds of thousands of pounds into the town by using this scheme when rewarding students and staff.

“Bedford College is an enormous asset to the town centre in terms of the customers who pour over the town bridge every weekday and to the BID via the voucher scheme,” added Christina.

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