'Help our high street!' An interview with Dominic Offord who is doing exactly that.
Our high streets have been the life and soul of communities for many years across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and they are crucial in creating jobs, nurturing small businesses and driving local and regional economies. Change is afoot and sadly there are more shop closures now on our high streets than shops opening which is having an impact on employment opportunities.
Dominic Offord of myTN.community has created a discount card to entice shoppers back to the high street and support their local community.
He told Katie about why he came up with this idea, how it works and how this concept came about in the first place.
Tell me about why you came up with the idea for the TN Community card.
This is the question that always takes the longest to answer as there were
2 main drivers behind the creation of myTN.community,
1) create a community supporting independent businesses and
2) help the high street evolve.
These drivers were fed by a whole host of factors such as; growing up with no money where my community kept us fed and the lights on and where you weren’t made to feel ashamed if you had to go and ask for help from your neighbour or the local shop, or living in a town that has a significant disconnect between the local town council, through to the constant negative ‘discussions’ within the media and social media about the ‘death of the high street’ which I believe has ripped apart the confidence from our small independent retailers and in some cases has created an idea that it’s better to travel to an out of town shopping mall or go online rather than support your local shops.
Because of all these factors we wanted to create a business that brought the community together in a positive way to support not only independent retailers but also independent businesses and help give our communities a unified voice in a time where we are becoming increasingly divided as a society.
Where can customers get a card from?
Go to www.mytn.community and sign up there.
Is it possible to use in conjunction with other promotions and offers?
Each member is sent a physical membership card once they sign up which they can use whenever they spend money with our partners whether this is in the store, over the phone or online. As for using it in conjunction with other promotions etc, that’s completely up to the individual partner to decide.
Tell us about the benefits to the customer and also to the shops.
On top of financial benefits of discounts off of purchases, free consultations, etc. The myTN.community card is about our members knowing that when they shop local with independent businesses they are supporting and investing in our community, helping their high street evolve and local businesses survive and thrive.
Do you plan to roll this out in other areas?
Yes, the idea is to role this out across the region and further which is why the rise of business improvement districts is really interesting.
Any wise words about your feelings of how the high street is struggling and how we can help to be conscious consumers with a loyalty to our community?
It’s not a myth or ‘fake news’ that our high streets are in trouble and with single issue politics dominating both central and local government, we believe that it’s up to us the community to play a leading role in helping our high streets evolve.
In order to do this however, we have to look at what we want from our high street rather than just dismiss it as another failing town.
For me, I need my high street to be a diverse market place with a healthy mix of independent retailers and businesses as well as the key retail chains. I want it to be a place where I can meet up with friends or take my family out knowing that I have a great choice of things to do depending on the mood. I need it to help me get birthday/Christmas/anniversary presents etc. for the whole family, meaning that I don’t need to automatically go online. I want to play my part in supporting local businesses as they will be able to give my kids their first taste of work and I want all of these businesses to deliver personalised experiences, where excellent customer services is a 'must' rather than a 'nice to have'. In the current climate that sounds like a tall order, but it doesn’t need to be. That’s my point!
We’ve spent this past year looking at the rise of experiential shopping and seeing how it is not just driven by technology, meaning that it’s affordable to all retailers. We already have some good examples in Tunbridge Wells. We’ve also looked at how customer experience is a key driver in peoples purchasing behaviour whether a one off or repeats and it’s interesting to see how people will pay more for a better experience. Essentially we as consumers are changing as we want more than just a traditional trip to the shops we want to have a cracking experience, whether shopping, dining or attending an event.
Taking all of this into consideration we’re seeing our towns’ event diary becoming full of ‘must attend’ local events such as farmers markets, festivals such as Unfest, Jazz on the Pantiles and Local & Live. We also have our own spa valley railway running events such as the Thomas the Tank Engine, Santa Express, PJ Masks or stepping into the hilarious, bizarre and madcap world of a Cornish village where yet another murder has been committed and it’s up to you and your friends to solve it. Throughout the year we’ve got live music and acts at the forum and brilliant comedy, drama and films at the Trinity Theatre and of course we have Tunbridge Wells Pride which was back and bigger than ever this year.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s still a lot of hard work to do as Tunbridge Wells is a town of two halves with the top part of the town now needing some focus, support and TLC from us, it’s community. This is why it’s good to see that the business improvement district (BIDS) have been approved, as whilst it’s not a ‘silver bullet’, I would imagine that a key chunk of the funding should/will be spent on this part of the town. However, after some hard years, I do believe that our town is starting to find it’s mojo again.
This is why I believe that when we have a strong community we can bring about positive change to not only our high street but also our town as we will be the ones driving and leading the evolution.
Our thanks to Dominic Offord for this interview.
To purchase a card and to see the retailers partnering this initiative go to www.mytn.community . If you have any questions or queries email: firstname.lastname@example.org .