Richard Spencer: Why Harrogate is rightly the envy of other destinations

Richard Spencer.
Richard Spencer.

Richard Spencer, chief executive of marketing agency Visit Harrogate, believes the town centre will evolve into a place which is more than just about shopping.

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Responding to the Harrogate Advertiser Town Centre Survey, Mr Spencer says Harrogate town centre needs to become a place where people can come to relax, meet people and discover culture.

“It’s worth saying how impressed Visit Harrogate is with the number of responses submitted to the survey," he said. “It can sometimes be a challenge to engage readers. This volume of interest is testament to the willingness of the people of Harrogate to get stuck into a conversation about the future of the town.

“I am pleased that overall, the respondees were positive about the future for the town centre.

“After Visit Harrogate’s Christmas windows competition last Christmas was aired on national TV, Harrogate is fast gaining a reputation for its creative approach to window entertainment.

“We are rightly the envy of other destinations.”

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“At the end of June this year, the national average on shop vacancy rates was 11.5%. Harrogate came in at 7.5% and the trend was down from the previous quarter.

“That’s not to say we mustn’t keep up our efforts to drive this down lower, and I know working with indies across the town they don’t like to see one unit vacant.

“Perhaps the landlords will work with us on allowing access to dress those empty windows with great displays from other retailers or present town wide information for passers-by?”

“Lowering the barriers to rent and rates will always be popular with businesses and it does not surprise me that this was identified as an opportunity for change.

“Recently some discretionary rate relief from Harrogate Borough Counxcil was available to retailers improving their windows and that’s worth investigating again.”

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Creating a different type of town centre

“Visit Harrogate believes that the High Street of the future will not just be about shops. They will be places where people come to relax, meet people, discover history, heritage and culture.

“We are already working with Harrogates indies and its food and drink supply chain on marketing campaigns and we recognise that actually, indie, chain or shopping centre, all these businesses employ people, buy products and contribute to the totality of the visitor experience.”

More live events and family facilities

“I was delighted to see readers suggesting more public events and outdoor entertainment as a way to drive new visitors into the town.

“This is recognised in our own tourism strategy and is a great way to win new spending and long term friends to our town.

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“More events, new reasons to visit, increased chance of expenditure, longer stays, compelling memories and an increased chance of a return visit Harrogate has a very real opportunity to establish itself as the centre of Yorkshire to hold events and we’ve been we chosen to host a global cycling event next year.”