High quality national retailers like this are clearly good news for the borough’s economy and regional profile, but this week I want to turn my attention to those small businesses and independent retailers who provide colour and interest to our High Street and collectively can do as much for our economic growth as any retail giant.
We’ve put our money where our mouth is on this.
With £1 million allocated to support independent traders to set up shop in the new Independent Quarter area (between Yorkshire Street, Clegg Street and Union Street [East]) we’re already seeing some amazing results with plenty more interested parties in the pipeline.
It’s fitting then that this Saturday (December 6) is Small Business Saturday, a national event that aims to support, inspire and promote small businesses and also to encourage people to ‘shop local’.
All our independent businesses are already getting into the spirit of Christmas by giving their customers some fantastic offers and incentives to shop local over the festive season.
This will hopefully encourage more people into the town centre to see our eclectic independent shopping offer for themselves.
From the latest fashions, to hair and beauty, photography packages and food and drink, there’s something to suit all tastes and budgets.
Look out for our new Christmas campaign called ‘24 Days of Christmas’. An ‘offer-a-day’ will be announced via Facebook between 1 – 24 December and if you see one you like, simply mention ‘24 Days of Christmas’ to the retailer to claim the offer.
The ‘Shop Local’ message is one that has always been at the forefront of my mind and is something that I have pursued passionately.
It is a vital ingredient in regenerating our economy and our borough and I am proud of what we have done so far to support our local businesses and retailers.
That includes setting up the Independent Quarter – visit http://iqoldham.co.uk/ to find out more – and investing £1 million in a fund to improve the shop fronts and help retailers; investing a further £200,000 into the high streets of Shaw and Lees; and, of course, extending FREE parking in the Town Centre for up to three hours at weekends into 2015.
While you are in the town centre this weekend you can also take a break from the shopping (or carrying the shopping, in my case) to be entertained by the latest offering from our packed Christmas programme which includes a Brass Monkeys live music event on December 6 and also sees the return of our popular Victorian Weekend on December 20 and 21 – all offering fun family activities to soothe the stress of those last-minute shopping expeditions.
One of Oldham’s ‘quirkier’ small businesses is also worth a special mention here this week.
Swirly Twirly Sweets is a traditional American Sweet Shop based in Manchester Chambers and it has been selected in the Small Biz 100, which showcases 100 of the top small businesses in the UK. A huge well done to Swirly Twirly Sweets – and make sure you take time to visit them in the run-up to Christmas for some special treats.
Talking of the entrepreneurial spirit, I felt very fortunate this week to attend an event marking the first anniversary of the Oldham Enterprise Fund.
With it’s £1 million cashpot already being used to support new businesses the cheer was spread even further as Honorary Freeman Norman Stoller announced a further £1 million of his hard-earned money will be going into the fund.
Norman is a wonderful ambassador and an inspiration to so many people, including myself, who has helped so many Oldhamers some of whom now trade online and, of course, in our town centre.
I’d like to finish this week’s blog with a welcome to some new neighbours of ours here at the Civic Centre – the Oldham Youth Council and also Barrier Breakers, which is our forum for young people with additional needs and disabilities.
This move has been on the cards for some time following a pledge I made in the summer to invest in facilities for the Youth Council and support the invaluable work that they do.
I believe it is important to invest in these young people.
They do a great job as ambassadors for the borough and I was proud that Oldham was the first council in the country to formally recognise its Youth Council by enshrining power for them into our council’s constitution.
What difference does that make? Well, it means the Youth Council is written into our decision-making processes, enabling them to put motions to us on key issues such as anti-bullying, reserving time at Full Council meetings for Youth Council business and requiring us to receive and consider their Annual Report.
Having the youth councillors here in the Civic Centre hopefully shows how much we value them and will give them a resource base from which they can continue to go from strength to strength.
Just one request though – keep the noise down!
Thanks for listening,