28 Sep 2012

St Helens Market Traders Await Council Decision

Market Traders in St Helens await Council Decision
Market Traders await a decision
A number of small businesses in St Helens are awaiting a decision from St Helens Council after they were told this week that their rent would be increasing by 300%.

During a refurbishment of St Mary's Market earlier this year, St Helens Council placed extra stalls for the new Saturday Market with an affordable £10 per day rental. This initiative was influenced by the Mary Portas review of Town Centres which aimed to make trading for small businesses easier and to kick start the nations struggling town centres.

The Saturday market in St Helens has helped several small and startup businesses within the borough. The news of the rent increase however has come as a huge blow and at a time when these businesses are preparing for the Christmas period.

St Helens Market
Nappy Days - one of the affected businesses
We spoke with Lesley Pile, owner of Nappy Days, a new business that sells handmade gifts for baby showers and also a line of pamper gifts. She told us "The new dramatic rent increase came as a huge shock to us all, and all the traders have said they cannot now afford to continue in the Market. The Saturday Market has only been approx 50% occupied, at best, since it started on 21st July 2012. Rather than encourage new traders to come in, this increase will deter new traders and I cannot see how the Saturday Market can continue to operate."

Lesley went on further to say "My business is still in its infancy and I cannot currently afford to rent a permanent stall or shop/unit. The Saturday Market was the first rung on the ladder for me to establish my brand and make it more visible to the public. Now I will need to look elsewhere for that opportunity, potentially outside the Borough where I've already discovered this week I can have a permanent unit for half the proposed cost of the temporary one in St Marys, that would be a terrible shame for our town centre."

We also contacted Steve Littler, Estates Manager at St Helens MBC to ask for a comment about the proposed rent increase, Steve provided us with a response as follows: "As part of the refurbishment of St. Mary’s Market the council placed extra stalls in it for the new Saturday market to encourage new start ups with a £10 fee for the day. This was broadly in line with recommendations made in the Mary Portas review of Town Centres and was very much seen as an incentive to get businesses started. The increased rent of £30 applies to those businesses that have been coming for 4 weeks or more which is still very reasonable and an inexpensive way for newcomers to sell their goods. The idea was to give people a start on the entrepreneurial ladder in as cheap a way as possible in an established Town Centre retail environment. Consideration is currently being give to a phased increase in the charge in order to provide further assistance."

 Lesley and the other market traders are hopeful that the Council will re think their rent increase and continue to support small local businesses.

13 Sep 2012

Help for St Helens Businesses

small business tips
If you're in business in St Helens and you've survived the past few years, now is a good time to look to the future and to prepare to take advantage of not just the forthcoming Christmas season but also the increase in business as the economy finds its wings again.

Let's be honest, businesses not only in St Helens but all over the UK and indeed the world have faced some extremely tough times. If you were shrewd and smart enough to survive then now's the time to remove the battens from the hatches, let some fresh air in and make plans to move forward. 

Making Business Plans

The face of business is changing in St Helens, the typical business model of old is unrecognisable in the town today, the markets and town centre have given way to hypermarket complexes, Spending habits have changed, the leisure industry has had to adapt since the smoking ban and we've seen traditional pubs either reinvent themselves as pub restaurants or close their doors. Whilst it's sad to see any local business shut up shop it does increase the market for those that survive. 

Peoples buying habits have changed too, with the vast majority of the population now online people tend to shop from their laptop rather than browse shop fronts. What does this mean for you?

People still like to buy locally but they will research things on the internet first. Whereas up until a few years ago a decent roadside location and an advert in the St Helens Star or Reporter would have brought regular business to your door, people now expect to be able to simply type a search into Google and research a purchase from their armchair. The vast majority of people would still rather buy face to face as oppose to online for payment security reasons but none the less, the research more often than not is done via the internet. Online sales have continued to grow even during the recession, last year alone they increased by 14%

Web Design St Helens

So how can you take advantage of this shift in buying? Well first of you should already have a website, if not then you need to speak to a web designer. Find a local web designer in St Helens who has experience of your market, is local so you can chat to him whenever necessary and who can understand your business and it's place in St Helens. Get your business online, showcase what it is you do, reach out to the people in the town and say "Hey, we're here in St Helens and we're online! 

Get a website for your business
Having a website gives you the opportunity to have a salesman working for you 24 hours a day. It gives you the opportunity to put your business in the best light possible but it also does so much more. You can interact with your customer base, you can even extend your reach outside of the town, as far as you like! If you already have a website then take a good look at it, have you had a website designed a few years ago and just neglected it since? Be honest, if so then have it redesigned. Have it optimised so that it is high up on Google search. Do you have a Facebook page? If not then you are missing out on a massive opportunity here. Facebook in conjunction with a website is a fantastic way of communicating with customers and increasing public awareness. 

If all this makes your head hurt then fear not, There is help and advice waiting for you at you at the St Helens Chamber of Commerce alternatively there is an excellent St Helens Web Design Company called Gwiz who can design a new website or redesign an old one for just a few hundred pounds. They can also help you to get onto Facebook and Twitter. 

It's understandable that this may worry some business owners in St Helens, the face of business is changing so rapidly but only the foolish will ignore the benefits of being online. If you've come this far already then your business has proven itself to be strong. Reinforce that strength by arming it with the advantage of a website and watch it thrive.