‘Out of towners’ were targeted in a landmark piece of research jointly funded by the Blackburn BID and Blackburn Mall to find out how shoppers would like to see Blackburn transformed.
Experts from consumer research company ROI, worked with participants from areas including Rawtenstall, Accrington, Clitheroe and Preston. The volunteers spent the day sharing their perceptions of Blackburn and finding out about the vision for the regeneration of areas such as Cathedral Quarter and the new bus station. Incentives which were offered included a £50 shopping voucher along with a free lunch, refreshments and parking in exchange for their feedback.
The focus group of 15 met with key decision makers and managers including Regeneration Manager, Clare Turner from Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council, Canon Ian Stockton at the Cathedral, David Smith, Commercial Manager for Blackburn Market, Loraine Jones, Manager of Blackburn Mall and members of the BID marketing team. They were given an insight into the vision for developing areas and attractions in the town centre and asked for their ideas. The results will be shared with the steering team of the Blackburn BID who will draw up a blueprint for marketing and events to attract visitors in what are being referred to as ‘battleground’ areas.
Loraine Jones, Manager of Blackburn Mall said: “We walked around the town centre, key heritage sites and the developing Cathedral Quarter. It’s interesting to see what their perceptions and what their thoughts are about the way Blackburn is changing.”
Rebecca Taylor who took part in the focus group said: “It’s good to see how it is changing and developing. There needs to be more focus on the leisure side of Blackburn, such as opening more restaurants, pubs, nice bars and cafes.”
Kelly Flood, a second member of group shared her views: “There are some nice places I didn’t know about until going on the tour. I loved Fleming Square and I will definitely be visiting it when I get more time.”
Over the next five years a further £1.5 million will be invested into the town centre by Blackburn BID through levy payers subscriptions in order to make the town a safer and more attractive place to shop, own a business, spend leisure time and work.
David Smith, Commercial Manager of Blackburn Market said: “We had some really good feedback. There was some good constructive criticism which is what we are looking for. What we need to do now is move it on in small incremental steps to improve things.”
Harriet Roberts is looking at the marketing and events plan for the BID. She said: ‘We wait to find out what the results are but just listening to the comments, people were saying that they want family orientated, low cost activities and events as well as good quality big name traders and a mixture of independent shops.’