Business chief’s ideas to boost town trade after figures show Mansfield economy not back to pre-pandemic levels

A “new style town centre environment and different customer experience” is needed to help boost Mansfield town’s trade says business chief.

Wednesday, 2nd February 2022, 5:30 pm

Gary Jordan MBE, chair of the Mansfield and Ashfield 2020 Business Group, was responding to data revealing that Mansfield town centre incomes are not back to pre-pandemic levels.

Mansfield District Council figures confirmed town centre footfall in October, November and December 2021, were significantly higher than 2020, but lower than in 2019.

Town visits have dropped, market stall incomes have fallen by 44 per cent on pr- pandemic levels and town centre facilities incomes were down. See the full figures here:

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Gary Jordan

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Figures reveal Mansfield's economy failing to return to pre-pandemic levels

Mr Jordan said the figures were “not surprising.”

“Covid itself has left many of the public still a little sceptical about the safety of shopping in enclosed environments, a fact that retail will need to continually work around for some while yet,” he said.

“A problem faced by many is that when we were locked down, the digital giants were able to increase massively their sales whilst the smaller businesses were caught up in the mix of uncertainty, finding themselves in a completely alien world to do business.”

He pointed to MA2020 schemes helping businesses.

“We delivered sector and subject specific workshops, Q+A sessions, virtual networking, breakfast club events, masterclasses and more during 2020 and 2021,” he said.

“We aim to continue to help SME’s who have great products/services, and an abundance of enthusiasm, but may not have the complete business acumen to work their way back to profitability.”

A women in business group had been started, and there was support for small businesses, with continued “signposting” to information from local authorities and MPs.

He warned that carparking costs would need to be looked at, saying “MDC did attempt to help with car parking fees, but still needs to make some challenging judgements on charges versus increasing numbers – or footfall may remain stubbornly low.”

Mr Jordan hoped the Towns Fund projects would “an eye pleasing aesthetic” to the town centre, and cultural changes to some of the current building occupancy.

He praised shopping managers Julie Snowden and Rebekah O’Neill for “working tirelessly” to ensure the voices of retail and town centre businesses were heard.

Mr Jordan said in his MA2020 role, he was working to bring the new CEO of Mansfield BID, Town Centre and Four Seasons managers together, to discuss how they can support those in need.

“Many talk of needing more financial support, but it’s more likely that a new style town centre environment and a different customer experience will be required along with education on best use of digital to bring small business into the modern world as opposed to simply feeling left behind by the giant corporations,” he said.

MA2020 will seek to help and is currently canvassing retail businesses to engage with peer groups sessions and coaching.

“The loss of large high street retailers is problematic but a cottage-style industry of home grown talent, products and services combined with a music, art cultural change alongside increasing numbers of students are all positives for the medium and long term.” Mr Jordan said.

Moving the market to an indoor space was “another opportunity for consideration,” an all-year-round facility to leave Mansfield’s “very historic market place to become a new and vibrant centre of attraction.”