A sneak preview of the new national centre that is due to open soon. See http://www.ukdric.org for more details. Funded by GFirst LEP and delivered by Marketing Gloucester
Gloucestershire’s Local Enterprise Partnership, GFirst LEP have announced a funding award of £400,000 to Marketing Gloucester to open a new national centre for digital retail innovation in the city.
The UK Digital Retail innovation Centre (UK:DRIC) will be the national centre for testing and developing disruptive digital innovations that will help shape and inform the future of cities with a special focus on retail.
The centre will be:
- The national independent centre for technology solution providers and retailers to test innovative technologies and work in partnership to enhance and develop new and possibly disruptive solutions
- A supportive incubator and catapult for high growth new retailers, all of whom will have access to next generation technologies and methodologies and will be targeted on rapid testing of their business model and growth
- A centre for upskilling retailers in new and developing retail technologies and methodologies
- UK:DRIC will be based on the first floor of the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Gloucester for an initial period of three years.
Diane Savory, Chair of GFirst LEP, commented “This is an exciting opportunity for Gloucestershire as it further demonstrates that our urban areas are proving to be leaders in the developing of innovation in digital retail solutions. We are delighted to be able to award this funding to Marketing Gloucester and confident that it will lead to further inward investment from the private and public sectors.”
The UK:DRIC promises to be a showcase and testbed for the latest retail technologies and could show off some future innovations such as holographic “virtual employees”, artificial intelligence, 3D scanning and printing of products, drone deliveries, robotic security guards, 360 virtual mirrors and near field communication.
Jason Smith, Chief Executive of Marketing Gloucester (whose team will be driving the project), said “This is a huge opportunity for Gloucester to progress in our ambition to be a showcase and testbed for digital technologies, developing the city of 2050 by 2025. There are huge challenges facing the UK retail sector and the UK Digital Retail Innovation Centre has the potential to be a gamechanger which could have a national impact, we greatly appreciate the investment from GFirst LEP.”
Paul James, Leader of Gloucester City Council, explained why this new centre was so important for the city saying: “Gloucester is ideally positioned to be a pathfinder for the
development of new technologies, the past few years companies we have shown how innovative we as a city can be. We were the first city to implement the three in one CCTV, Wifi and 4G solution, winning the prestigious Gordon McLanaghan Security Innovation Award; and have built up a wide range of partners such as Google’s Niantic Labs, #WDYT, Rewarding Visits and BT who have tested their technologies in the city. There is huge potential for additional inward investment and additional jobs and this investment from GFirst LEP can act as a catalyst.”
In light of the recent article on Gloucestershire Live and some of the subsequent comments the following will be useful in setting the matters straight – demonstrating that the true story of Gloucester’s retail environment has been one of steady improvement and success over the last 7 years:
It is true that the city has gone through difficult times. In 2010 the BBC reported on data issued by The Local Data company that stated that Gloucester had amongst the highest number of empty shops in the UK http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-gloucestershire-11925423 . The city’s retail vacancy rate in 2010 was recorded at a high 21%.
Since then a lot has changed. Millions of pounds have been invested in city regenertaion and a strategy was formulated and action taken to stimulate growth, with the city council high street initiatives providing funding and rate rebates to new businesses. Funding has been put aside for grants to enable renovation of the city’s historic shops and investment continues to be made in Marketing Gloucester to help deliver footfall driving events and promote the city, something that has been highly effective with visitor numbers increasing by over 60% since 2013.
From 2010 to today there has been a 40% reduction in the number of empty shops
Today the retail vacancy rate for the whole city is 11.6% with Retail vacancy rate for the four Gate streets, Kings Square and the historic central Gloucester having fallen to 12.4% – this is almost exactly the same as the current national average for retail vacancy rates which is 12.3%. By any measurement this is a success story.
Currently, Gloucester Quays, the Business Engagement team at Marketing Gloucester and the city council are receiving high levels of inquiries from national and local organisations who wish to follow the example of TK Maxx , Ted Baker and Cote Brasserie whose research has shown Gloucester as and ideal place to locate. There has also been a crop of independent businesses starting up or expanding in the city. There are many more ready to invest in the beautiful historic city.
The failing of Argos, BHS and a small Coop shop should not be seen as harbingers of doom for the city but are merely reflections of national retailers with failed models of operating or those seeking to change their operating practice.
The current successes though are likely to be nothing compared to those that are ahead in the bright future for the city. There are currently massive regeneration projects going on around the city that will further stimulate growth. In 2016 Gloucester’s population overtook that of Cheltenham and is set to continue to rise, this in itself will stimulate the retail sector further and lead to lower vacancies, as will the location of thousands of students to Gloucester by the University of Gloucester.
Yes the FACTS on Gloucester’s retail landscape since 2010 – show 40% fewer empty shops with plenty or reasons to believe that the improvement will continue.