It's an exciting time for businesses in Streatham, South London.
Not only is their local MP Chuka Umunna also the shadow business secretary, Streatham has become the 150th Business Improvement District, or BID, in the UK. This essentially means that businesses in the area have voted to improve the bigger picture by making a collective investment in local initiatives. More than £1.25m will be invested through a new organisation, inStreatham, over the next five years.
Make It Cheaper sampled the optimistic mood among Streatham businesses at Parliament last Wednesday evening, when we sponsored a BID launch event in the House of Commons' Jubilee Room. Local businessman and BID chair Richard Coltart joined Umunna in giving a speech to representatives of more than 80 Streatham companies, which ran the gamut from branches of major multiples to public houses to independent stores to charity shops.
Umunna, who was born and raised in his constituency, showed his passion for Streatham with the assertion that it is "the centre of the Universe". He talked about Streatham High Road - which many claim to be the longest High Street in the United Kingdom and perhaps Europe - no longer being just a thoroughfare and instead becoming a day and night-time destination characterised by an outdoor café culture and a vibrant shopping scene.
Chuka Umunna, who was born and raised in the constituency he represents, showed his passion for Streatham with the assertion that it is "the centre of the Universe."
After all, this was once a shopping street that was so busy that it became home to Britain's first supermarket when Express Dairies Premier Supermarkets opened a 2,500 square foot store in 1951. Four years later, the country's very first Waitrose opened in the district. There is certainly a sense that the BID aims to help restore Streatham High Road's former retail glory.
Richard Coltart, who has used Make It Cheaper's services to save thousands of pounds in costs at his Streatham pub The Manor Arms on many occasions, matched Umunna's enthusiasm for SW16 and told the audience, "Streatham, you're the business." He went on to explain some of the BID's finer details, including the fact that members would have the opportunity to attend sector-specific meetings every six weeks throughout the BID's five-year period.
If everyone works together sharing opinions and ideas, the theory goes, Streatham can achieve its 2020 vision - a set of targets that includes attracting a 20% increase in visitors and fostering 20% higher expenditure in shops, pubs, cafés and restaurants.
The BID has also put together a ten-point plan that they are pledging to deliver on behalf of members, which covers actions to confront a number of local concerns such as commercial crime, anti-social behaviour, parking, traffic congestion and signage.
One of the ten steps is to 'help businesses save money by procuring cheaper services than those currently provided'. This caught our eye because it's exactly where we can be of use, helping businesses get a better deal on a number of costs such as energy and telecoms. We've helped save money for The Manor Arms and a few other Streatham-based businesses already - but hope to be able to provide our free service to as many of the 522 participating businesses as possible. If we can, we'll have done our bit to help the Streatham BID achieve its objectives.
Kevin is the Brand Communications Manager at Make It Cheaper, so he makes sure people know who we are, what we do and how we do it. He's from a family of small business owners (his dad runs a chippy, mum a dancing school, uncle a scaffolding company, auntie a fancy dress shop), so he's passionate about making it easier for customers to run their businesses. He spends lots of his time making our letters and emails easy to understand, nice to look at and a pleasure to read. You can email Kevin at firstname.lastname@example.org
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