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I’ve lived back in Rugby town for approximately 5 years now. To try to touch base with goings on and events in the community and local business environment; I decided to join a few local Facebook groups.

There’s been quite a lot of frustration aired from locals through Facebook about the number of coffee shops, ice cream parlours, restaurants, vape, tattoo shops and barber shops – showing a frustration that there’s a lack of diversity in what the high street offers nowadays. 

What’s been seen across Rugby over recent years (as well as many other towns up and down the UK) has been the big brands pulling out of the high street and onto the retail park. The latest firm to move from Rugby town centre, and its Rugby Central shopping centre location is Dunelm – moving to a larger premises (formerly occupied by Debenhams) on the Elliots Field retail park.

On a more positive note however, the town centre and high street may not necessarily be dead to independants, boutiques and other startups. Although the town may currently be overly-saturated by coffee shops, takeaways and barber shops; there are some fantastic boutique, independent retailers in Rugby, on Regent Street and Albert Street in particular.

One local business driving initiatives to drive footfall back into Rugby town centre is ‘Gallacher’s Wine Merchants’, who don’t just sell wine, but offer an experiential and immersive experience. They offer wine and cheese tasting events – a perfect way to incentivise people to visit the town centre. They are a prime example of a Rugby business doing a fantastic job to encourage the local community to ‘shop local’ and they even arrange meetups with local businesses to drive ideas around how to further develop ideas for Rugby. Here’s one of Gallachers recent posts.

gallachers_wine_rugby

Of course, to see this post on Facebook, you need to be either following Gallacher’s Wine Merchants or to have seen one of your friends share this content from their FB page.

What more can local businesses and councils be doing to drive awareness of initiatives, events and footfall?

Rugby is the second largest town in Warwickshire with approx 77k people residing, with its population growing at a rapid rate vs other towns in the West Midlands. This growth has been especially noticeable over the past few years with new housing developments and even new areas being developed in Houlton.

 

rugby_town_population

 

Source  – https://www.ons.gov.uk/visualisations/censuspopulationchange/E07000220/

Some key events have happened over the past few days in Rugby, with the Queen’s baton coming through Rugby (with various events in town to support this) in the buildup to the Commonwealth Games 2022 in Birmingham. When we look at some of the key Facebook pages however from the main authorities for the town, there’s a combined total of 16 likes and 9 shares of their Facebook post about this, which is disappointing to see.

Commonwealth_games_2022

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Facebook Advertising is a key channel here

Not just for local businesses, but Business Improvement District (BID) – Rugby First and also the council. 

Being a resident of the town, I’ve decided to take the initiative to follow a number of Facebook pages such as these to keep track of developments in the town, and also to support local businesses. That said, this type of messaging ‘which is important for the local community to see’ can often get diluted within a Facebook feed amongst updates from friends or other businesses – and subsequently, easily missed. If you don’t happen to see the Facebook post on the day it was posted, it’s unlikely you’ll be scrolling through your Facebook feed to spot it.

With Facebook advertising, the organisations mentioned above, as well as local businesses across Rugby can target local audiences through radius targeting and by specific demographics. They can even apply a Facebook pixel and retarget to audiences who have previously visited their respective websites. Moreover, they won’t just be targeting those already likely to be following their respective Facebook page, but also attracting new or existing residents to like their page and engage with their content, when this audience may not have otherwise had been aware of the page or content presented.

Facebook_advertising_local_events

If businesses and local organisations take some steps towards more effectively advertising their businesses directly through digital advertising to their key target audiences, this may result in greater awareness, engagement, contact, in-store or online purchases. Facebook Ads is a good, affordable medium to make strides in this respect.

Support a lack of footfall in town with a standout website, supported by the power of social media

What strikes me in towns up and down the country is that retail stores still depend almost entirely upon footfall in their store to generate sales. The online marketplace can often still be neglected, even in the digital age we live. Whether that be the organisation not offering a transactional experience with a website with ecommerce functionality built-in, or the website being of a poor standard; making conversion unlikely. Why not double up on efforts and strive to generate footfall in your store from local audiences by using your website as a storefront to the local community ‘online’, generating ideas , initiatives or events? Otherwise, work to strive for online transactions from the rest of the UK, making sales from further afield than you typically would from someone who has no intention of visiting Rugby.

Retailers can ill-afford to think along the lines of, “let’s use our website to support sales“. It should be more along the lines of “let the website power sales both online and in-store“. One of the key ways in which to reduce the volume of frustration from the local community is by generating awareness of what’s happening in town. Are there any offers, events, initiatives or experiences your business can provide to incentivise footfall that can be promoted online? Are you clubbing together with other organisations in town? Ultimately, if your audience key demographic are aware of your organisation, supported by the efforts being made – the local community will be far less likely to grumble about a lack of an offering in their local town.

If you require support with your website, or social advertising, please contact our team.

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