IT’S great to have more visitors in town – but how do you turn that into cash in the tills?

The people behind Bournemouth Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) insist that this reasonable question is very much on their minds.

The research reported to the BID board this week suggests the extra footfall is delivering some benefit to retailers, with 62 per cent of those surveyed reporting a Christmas that compared well with 2017.

And the fact that daytime footfall was up by 32 per cent in the run-up to Christmas suggests there were plenty of people in town at times when the stores were open.

As it plans more activities for 2019, the BID is looking to hold them in different parts of the town centre, and build in more opportunities for retailers to benefit.

Paul Kinvig, the BID’s chief operating officer, said: “Activities bringing people to the town centre are great – but when we support the people or organisations that do these events, our big thing is that it’s absolutely clear how they’re going to interact with the BID in order for businesses to engage with that footfall.”

Activities in the planning for this year include:

  • A Style weekend in May, featuring fashion shows with a catwalk and an augmented reality experience. The clothes will be available from local shops.
  • Markets in various parts of town centre, including Post Office Road, Albert Road and Yelverton Road.
  • A food and drink event at Horseshoe Common.
  • The return of the giant slide which was an August bank holiday attraction at Richmond Hill.
  • A market around the upside down house which has been a big draw at the Triangle.
  • The BID uses the national company Springboard to collect footfall numbers, but it is also looking at collecting more detailed data.

Footfall cameras can collect anonymised information about the demographics of visitors, while mobile phone data can show the way visitors move around town.

All this could help retailers make decisions about how they operate and the hours they open.

BID chair Martin Davies said: “If you’re a retailer, it’s really tough, nobody’s denying that. Everybody’s got to really support retailing.

“The question becomes recognising that potentially the nature of the footfall in Bournemouth is changing. It becomes about adapting in order to profit from the footfall.”

A delegation from Bournemouth gave a presentation this week at a conference called Future of City and Town Centres, organised by Key Cities. They were struck by the fact that they were already doing many of the things that were held up as good practice at the event.

The national problems facing retail – online shopping, high rents, punishing business rates – are not easily overcome. But the BID believes that with more people in town for events, the town’s shops at least have thousands of potential customers to appeal to.