Described by a national newspaper just a few years ago as “Britain’s biggest ghost town”, Altrincham is leading the revival of the UK’s high streets.
Whilst visits to UK town centres are down 17 per cent over the past decade and online shopping is rising 10 per cent a year, Altrincham’s footfall has steadily increased over the last 5 years.
So successful has the turnaround been that the town was named the Best High Street in England last year and the second best place to live in the north west according to the Sunday Times this year. Now it has been selected as the pilot for National High Street Perfect Day.
The pilot scheme follows the publication in December of the government’s High Street Report after an inquiry chaired by businessman and philanthropist Sir John Timpson CBE, which recommended that local leaders must be at the forefront of the rejuvenation of town centres and improving the housekeeping of their high streets.
Now the idea of a National High Street Perfect Day – one day in the year when every high street looks the best it possibly can – is being trialled in Altrincham. The lessons will be shared with other town centres across the nation.
To celebrate all the hard work, the town’s great retail and business offer and the community that is Altrincham, the BID is organising the town’s first High Street Festival, taking place between 12-8pm in the town centre on Friday 17th May.
The whole community, including the businesses represented by Altrincham Unlimited (the Business Improvement District), schools, voluntary groups and Trafford Council will be working towards ‘one special day’ in many ways. The BID is coordinating a programme of jet washing and working with Trafford Council’s contractors to focus on the appearance of the town centre.
“We know Altrincham, like any other town, has its challenges,” said Elizabeth Faulkner of Altrincham Unlimited.
“So, many individuals and businesses have said they want to work together in partnership to try and make the town ‘look & feel’ the best it can for the 17th May and continue the initiative on a day-by-day basis in the future. We’re thrilled to have been invited by Sir John Timpson to be the pilot town as it gives us all something to work towards.
“We have come a long way in a very short time. Last year footfall in the town centre was at record levels and so far in 2019 it is 10.7 per cent higher still.”
Examples of how businesses can be involved include reviewing the look of their premises and ensuring their customer service is where they want it to be, through optional mystery shops. They will also be offered support if they would like to spring clean their social media.
This won’t be the first time Altrincham’s formula for success has set an example for others to follow.
The development of Altrincham’s hugely popular market, which kickstarted the town’s recovery from a low point when 35 per cent of retail premises were empty, has been copied in Manchester with Mackie Mayor and more recently with the Produce Hall in Stockport.
“Altrincham is where I served my first customer, and that’s one of the reasons I proposed it as the pilot town for the ‘National High Street Perfect Day’,” said Sir John, who is chair of the Expert Advisory Panel on High Streets and chairman of retail services company Timpson, which has 1,325 units across the country.
“It’s a town where the partnerships are working really hard in a challenging national high street environment to buck the trend.
“The Perfect Day concept is one which we use in my shops throughout the country and it has worked for us for years. On one day each year, in every part of the business, the whole team gets involved to make sure they shine on the day!
“Scaling it up to a whole town centre is an exciting proposition and I look forward to seeing the results in Altrincham.”