Manchester BID is the city’s retail Business Improvement District. The BID is managed by the city centre management company, CityCo. Your business is one of the 400 leading retail and restaurant brands paying a BID levy in Manchester’s central retail district. The BID’s focus is to support growth by bringing businesses together with public agencies and to support the vibrancy and resilience of our city.

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The last few months have been challenging, but we have continued to operate throughout the period, supporting businesses that remain open and those planning around reopening. We therefore want to update you on what we have been doing on your behalf over the last few months.

The impact of Covid-19 first began to be felt by businesses in Manchester during January and February, particularly with a reduction in international visitors. This was then followed by a rapid decline in trading generally, as the virus spread worldwide and across the UK. National legal restrictions on trading and movement were then fully applied from Monday 23rd March, leaving just selected ‘essential’ banks, food shops and pharmacies open in retail.

With the private sector often moving faster to try to adapt business models than the latest official advice, Manchester BID was heavily involved in communication of the ‘latest news’ to levy payers and a wide range of local public sector bodies throughout the month. Restrictions began to be lifted from the 15th June.

Business Help and Support

Communication

That only ‘essential’ businesses could open obviously had a huge impact on the BID’s levy payers. Your BID team immediately began circulating a regular weekly summary of the impact of the virus, providing support information across all communication channels.

Initially this included Government and local advice, including from partners such as Manchester City Council, Manchester Arndale shopping centre, Transport for Greater Manchester, Greater Manchester Police and The Combined Authority (Metro Mayor), plus numerous others.

Feedback locally indicates that this has been appreciated, as plans were made and actioned for increased security patrols and reduced transport services.

We also linked various initiatives to support the NHS and other vital services; for example, the fantastic example of M&S and Selfridges providing clothing and personal care products for the street community entering hotel accommodation.

Zoom Briefings

As lockdown progressed into April, we used weekly e-newsletters to stay in touch and initiated a series of Zoom video calls, with close liaison with the BID’s largest employer businesses and invitations to all of the BID’s levy payers to hear the latest updates directly from senior figures from the public sector. The calls have created an opportunity for BID businesses to compare their approaches and learn from those that have remained open. These sessions have expanded as it has become clear that lockdown restrictions were going to be eased in June.

As well as open ‘BID’ video calls, we have facilitated stand-alone sessions on transport, policing, the nighttime economy, and with the city council leadership, inter alia. This has all aided business planning, particularly at a time when individual businesses have been looking in detailed arrangements for their reopening and returning staff from furlough at different times.

Liaison and Lobbying

At a local level, CityCo has continued to meet with leadership of all Manchester public bodies and representative organisations of other sectors such as digital economy, hotels and property. Vitally, we have shared information about funding and support packages as they became available to the independent businesses within the BID and continued to work with Councillors and MPs to help put pressure on government to further refine and enhance that support.

Policing and Security

Since the beginning of lockdown, there has been concern about impact on property, and potential for crime and disorder. So far, this has not raised its head in a major way, and we have shared several grateful updates from the Chief Inspector for Manchester city centre. GMP has had several successes over the last few months making arrests of multiple offenders, led by intelligence provided by CityCo’s Business Crime Reduction Partnership.

As businesses reopen, the BID, CityCo and BCRP teams continue to be in daily contact with GMP and have helped plan a dedicated retail operation with high visibility policing to prevent and deter crime in place for at least the first two weeks of re-opening from the 15th June. In the first week of re-opening, this has had great success in dealing with anti-social behaviour in the main city centre streets.

Planning Reopening

The last few weeks have seen us concentrating on sharing (and interpreting) detailed guidelines with businesses on social distancing arrangements. This has involved liaising with businesses and the local authority and police on queuing systems, capacity, transport and policing. Queuing systems for the very largest stores and shopping centres have been put in place and there has then been further work to fit other businesses around them – including the BID distributing guidelines and additional social distancing floor stickers and window materials.

We have also had daily ‘situation reports’ and walk-rounds with police and council to further refine these schemes and provide ‘on the ground support’ as many businesses reopen. Similar planning work is now underway with food and beverage businesses across the BID to look at solutions such as al fresco dining and licencing.

The BID-funded team of City Hosts will be un-furloughed in phases from the end of June to provide customers with support and directions throughout the retail district, as well as helping share information with businesses and environmental and cleaning reports to the council.

Welcome Back Marketing

The BID has also been working with Manchester City Council and Marketing Manchester on the city’s phased ‘Welcome Back’ campaign that stresses both stay safe messaging and a distinctive welcome return to the city: see welcomebackmanchester.com

Assets and images have been shared with levy payers for display and sharing on social media, and further use of this overarching artwork are being planned, bringing in landlords and other partners to help to show city-wide messages that helps reassure customers that the city is safely reopen for business.

Controlling Cost & Governance

As highlighted, we have continued to operate in support of the remaining open businesses and to keep lines of communication open to those who have had to close. However, certain of our services have not been needed and as a result, most BID-funded staff have remained on furlough.

2020 BID Events Programme

City centre events for the first half of the fiscal year have been cancelled or postponed, and we are continually reviewing our commitments; balancing the need to reduce costs now with the almost certain need to promote and support the city centre on a return to all businesses having reopened, and the vital autumn to Christmas peak trading period.

Events cancelled so far include the BID’s April Student Shopping event in partnership with Manchester Arndale, May/June ‘Mystery Shopping’ visits and awards ceremony – and The King Street Festival and Manchester Flower Show. We have also pulled back from commitments to work with partnerships on summer events such as Manchester Pride and ‘Traffic-Free’ days with the Council.

Governance

We have continued to hold quarterly board meetings and have increased the frequency of our Executive Finance Committee meetings to monthly, to help provide oversight for necessary changes and the evolving state of the BID’s own finances, minimising outgoings and positioning the business responsibly.

All of this has left us in a strong position to continue our support of our levy-payers, while being able to absorb the inevitable impact of some levy-payers going into administration.

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