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Comprehensive review urges holistic approach to Main Street business

(Photo John Bugeja) 222017GibraltarGibraltar Test in Albert Risso House Gibraltar

The Gibraltar Federation of Small Businesses should engage with landlords to help shape Main Street’s retail environment in a cohesive, focused way, a comprehensive review of Main Street has advised.

The 48-page Main Street report was unveiled last night at the GFSB annual dinner, which was attended by local entrepreneurs from across the Rock.

Some 250 Main Street businesses were surveyed by Corin Birchall, Managing Director of Kerching, who was contracted by the GFSB to complete the review.

Mr Birchall spoke to the Chronicle prior to the evening event to discuss his plans in detail, agreeing that although Main Street was profitable there are changes that could be made to increase traffic and spending.

Mr Birchall recommends the GFSB engages with landlords to ensure they do not take the first offer they receive and instead consider what would be the ‘right’ tenant for that area of town.

“Whilst there may be appetite from entrepreneurs to open further hair salons, pharmacies or tobacco spirits shops, having another type of outlet in the right location may benefit the city centre as a whole,” Mr Birchall stated in his review.

He recommended grouping similar shops together, such as having “a jewellery quarter” at the entrance of town and focusing on fashion in a bid to lure customers to the Rock.

Mr Birchall noted how people will often cross into Spain to shop at malls for clothes, adding that bringing well-known high street fashion brands could instead lure those customers into the heart of town.

He analysed how many tourists tend to take excursions and are not brought into town to spend, adding that businesses such as hairdressers and estate agents should be situated just off Main Street.

“Gibraltar is in a good situation,” he said.

“You have 12 million annual visitors, low shop vacancy rates, a good quality retail offer overall, and there aren’t many streets in the UK where you would walk down with that many people.”

“Gibraltar has a good hand of cards to look at how to gear itself for the next 10 to 15 years.”

Mr Birchall underscored the importance of bringing together local landlords to ensure cohesion rather than “everyone fighting their own battle”.

Landlords must think of Main Street as a “singular brand” and “product” in the future, he added.

Mr Birchall also discussed the prospect of bringing well-known brands to the Rock to create a sense familiarity with British tourists.

One of his ideas is to emphasise the “Britishness” of Gibraltar create a ‘Little London’ or ‘London in the Sun’ area in Main Street.

However, he said this would not detract from the local aspect of town and ‘home grown’ businesses.

“Most of the international brands you have are still run by local businesses as a franchise so they still would be feeding the local economy and entrepreneurs,” he said.

“Having an independent offer is great when it is unique. Having quirky boutiques and independents works in Lincoln [UK], now consider what a lot of the independents are on Main Street.”

“There are a lot of shop selling monkeys and souvenirs, or cigarettes and cheap liquor. That’s not really a unique offer, all of them are identical there must be 14 or 15 pharmacies. It’s about not taking away that unique aspect but saying when an independent offer is not adding value.”

The review also features ideas including a renovation of the ICC and The Arcade, and for businesses to discuss similar opening hours to avoid to slow “wilting” of the street.

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