More than 100 local businesses received support for online tradingPosted on: Thursday, January 20, 2022
A series of funding opportunities provided by Newark and Sherwood District Council to enable independent high street retailers and the hospitality trade to introduce or expand their online and digital offering during the pandemic helped 115 local businesses and generated more than £36K in private sector investment in e-commerce and social media advertising.
The £25k High Street Diversification Fund was launched in October 2020 by the District Council, which was the first council to create a fund of this nature.
The fund awarded eligible businesses in Newark, Ollerton, Edwinstowe or Southwell with a grant of £250 towards investment in e-commerce, that would be match funded by the applicant in order to create a new website, develop an existing website, create a transactional capability, initiate a Search engine Optimisation (SEO) site check-up, integrate social media channels onto a business website or train to improve digital skills and knowledge.
The District Council recognised that while most high street independent businesses had been required to close their doors due to restrictions relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, it was now important for them to adapt to e-commerce, mobile commerce and social media activities to create resiliency and to future-proof for the post pandemic months and years to come.
At the same time, research from The Office for National Statistics (ONS) also suggested that retail sales made online were on the rise, and forecast they would make up a third of overall sales by 2024.
To qualify, a business had to trade within the Newark and Sherwood District Council boundary and be an independently owned, high-street retail or hospitality business. Applications were open for submission on the District Council website.
Successful applicants were responsible for ensuring the work was undertaken and completed by a given date. Following completion of the work, the grant was then awarded to the business after copies of all invoices were provided to the District Council for processing.
A total of 64 eligible businesses received a combined grand fund total of £16K, which generated more than £35K of website development activity.
Councillor Keith Girling, Deputy Leader of Newark and Sherwood District Council and Chair of the Economic Development Committee, said: “We are committed to doing all we can to support our independent high street retailers and businesses and we know how much they suffered during the pandemic.
“This funding was allocated from the District Council purely for this reason. It was not part of any national grant payments.
“Having an online presence allows a business to reach and service its customers in an alternative way, through website development, branding and social media engagement.
“The aim was to enable growth and regeneration when our businesses emerged from the pandemic, giving them a new or improved online platform they can use to increase sales and thrive.”
Having seen the success of Newark and Sherwood’s programme in its infancy, other Local Authorities sought to replicate similar programmes in their local areas.
Following the successful launch, the District Council opened a second round of funding in December 2020 to further support independent retail and hospitality businesses who missed the original application deadline. This resulted in an additional 13 eligible businesses receiving a £250 grant each, generating more than £6,000 in further website development activity.
Additional grant funding was allocated by the District Council to launch a third grant, this time offering £125 (to be match funded) for high street retail/hospitality businesses to invest in sponsored social media advertising during February, March and April 2021. This was open to all eligible businesses, even if they were successful in receiving funding for the first two rounds of funding, to boost their online sales presence.
A total of 25 grant payments were made, which generated nearly £8K in social media advertising.
A final round of the High Street Diversification Grant closed in June 2021. A total of 13 grant payments of £250 generated more than £11K of website development for local businesses in Newark and Sherwood.
Feedback from recipients of the grant funding has been overwhelmingly positive. Following its successful application, the owner of Home Bake in Southwell commented: “We have gone for it – making improvements to transactional capabilities with an additional 50 orders received, both from local and from further afield that would not have happened without the changes. Due to this we are offering new products and work is ongoing with SEO.”