Business start-up support has all but disappeared since the recession took hold and this has contributed to an increase in empty retail units in high streets across the country. Prescot town centre in Knowsley was no exception with a significant decrease in shop units doing business. Despite attempts to resurrect the shopping offer through a monthly market, the high street was struggling to attract footfall and new and sustainable businesses which would appeal to the high street shopper. The community needed a business start-up idea that would bring new life to the retail offer in Prescot whilst complementing the existing shopping units and delivering a clear social, economic and sustainable return on investment.
What we did
One Ark called upon its extensive network of businesses, funders and partners and, through collaborative and creative thinking, came up with the innovative ‘Win a Shop’ competition concept The concept offers budding entrepreneurs and new start-up businesses a unique opportunity to win a shop – rent free for a whole year, along with a free bespoke shop refit to suit their business concept plus business and marketing support and advice through the first year of trading.
The competition was the first of its kind in the UK and the collaborative delivery approach was innovative, prompting huge media interest both locally and nationally. One Ark co-ordinated the partner-based delivery and investment programme which included various business owners from the town planning team and CBRE - owners of shopping centre who offered the rent free unit Vivark delivered the bespoke shop refit as part of their social value commitment and Knowsley Chamber of Commerce delivered the business support and advice.
One Ark launched the ‘Win a Shop’ competition in October 2013, supported by an exciting marketing campaign and shortlisted 8 new and sustainable business ideas. After a ‘Dragon’s Den’ style assessment with a partner-led judging panel the winner was announced: Cheryl Mullins, a local resident with an exciting furniture upcycling concept. After mobilising the refit of the shop unit, Cheryl’s shop opened for business on 7th June 2014 supported by a high profile launch event for which One Ark secured local and regional media coverage.
How we added value
The marketing support which One Ark provided really added value to the success of this project. The support included the development of the marketing collateral for the programme, promotional support for the launch event and radio and press coverage of the campaign.
Under One Ark’s guidance, the new shop has now been trading for 5 months and is operating at a profit – creating employment opportunities for 2 full time assistants and an apprentice. The business is a completely new addition to the high street and other retailers in the area have reported an increase in sales since Grace Lea’s opening. With an added value commitment from the new business owner to deliver furniture upcycling workshops to long term unemployed people from the local community and the nature of the business in itself driving more recycling and upcycling, the impact of the project is both economic and social.
Based on the success and impact of this first project, One Ark has negotiated a number of other exciting opportunities to deliver the project model in other communities that are experiencing the same challenges.
You can download the full case study here: 'Win A Shop' Case Study!