Top 10 Tips for writing a night time economy strategy
The night-time economy is finally getting the recognition that it deserves. We can’t help but think that this is mainly because the day time economy needs a prop.
You can’t help but notice store closures, big named retail brands struggling and the talk of the death of the high street as online shopping continues to boom. I feel a little guilty about this as I worked for a well known IT company when I finished University on their innovation team setting up online trading for retailers, nearly 20 years ago. We had no idea how successful it would be!
As my Granny used to say, however, you just need to make the best of what you have got. Our night-time economy use and the desire for leisure is increasing as predicted in the Deloitte report A Passion For Leisure. In January 2019 the London Night Time Commission in their Think Night Report declared that “London’s successful night-time economy can play a major role in helping to save the capital’s struggling high streets” and in February 2019 the Future Cities Forum also declared that they were hosting a discussion on how night-time economy could help save the high street after research had shown that 92% of councils in England believe that the night-time economy can be key in preventing the decline of high street retail.
If the night time economy is set to save the high street then every town and city will need a night time economy strategy. If you don’t have a strategy then you will rely solely on organic growth and there is compelling evidence that intentional, managed growth is more successful than organic growth.
Cities and big consultancies are well used to writing day time economy strategies but few have the right experience when it comes to the night. There is still a sense of fear and the unknown when it comes to the night. Many cities let their night time economy self generate and then coped with the ensuing mess, and we don’t want to go back to or maintain the title of binge drinking Britain.
We have seen really great progress with some cities and towns focussing heavily on developing their night time economy by putting in place night ambassadors, night mayors or night czars who have then developed strategies to manages their cities or areas after dark. We’ve been privileged to write many night time economy strategies for areas as diverse as large metropolitan cities, towns, London boroughs and seaside areas and we are starting to see more areas request this service. We have some top tips if you are considering writing a night time economy strategy, so we thought that we would share some learnings on how to write a night time economy strategy with you.
- Gather your partners:
Partnership working is essential for researching, creating and implementing a night time economy strategy.
Partners need to be diverse in order to give you as broad as perspective as possible. We would recommend that as a minimum you have the local authority (you could consider town/city centre management, councillors, licensing, inward investment, community protection, marketing, public realm, cleansing), police (Chief Inspector or Local Policing Inspector and a Licensing Officer), a representative from the office of the local Police and Crime Commissioner, local businesses (Individual operators, BID, destination management organisation or Chamber of Commerce), education (University or higher education), licensing solicitors, property agents, health (A&E, ambulance service and/or drugs and alcohol), Public Health and transport providers.
Partners need to meet regularly to build trust in each other and get used to working together and sharing resources. We recommend bi-monthly to start with dropping to quarterly after a year depending on the needs of your area. It is a good idea to schedule meeting dates six months in advance to ensure they are in partners diaries. We would recommend allowing substitutes to be sent but not on a recurring basis and it is important to ensure that decision makers and familiar faces are around the table regularly to ensure things get done and there is accountability.
2.Know your audience
Research into your individual night time economy is essential, and you should consult with as broad an audience as possible. Including users and non-users is essential, and don’t forget residents, community groups, businesses, as well as wider partners and any other stakeholders.
Research can be performed in a number of different ways; we find engaging with people via a variety of methods provides a robust data set from which to build your strategy. You could make use of electronic or on-street surveys, focus groups, workshops, phone calls or Facebook Live, for example.
3. Collate data
Data is a beast that is worth taming. You will find that there are lots of data sets collected such as police crime and ASB data, council ASB data, hospital admissions, ambulance call outs, footfall camera data and GOAD data. All of these data sets can provide you with useful tools for creating your strategy or supporting decisions.
You will need to decide as a partnership on which data you are going to use, over what time scales, why you are going to use it, how you are going to use it, and what do you want it to tell you.
Top Tip: Try and secure a police data analyst to prepare a data product for your partnership, who will be able to help you decide what metrics to track and analyse. If you are unable to get someone “on the inside”, you could submit FOI requests to get the data but organisations have 20 working days to respond so you’ll never be working with the most up-to-date data.
4. Perform regular overnight audits
We’ve seen lots of areas make the mistake of trying to write a night time economy strategy based on their own personal perceptions, which can often be based on historical knowledge or incorrect assumptions. We would highly recommend that you don’t try and create a strategy if you or the rest of the partnership has not been out very recently to observe how your night time economy works or doesn’t regularly observe what is happening. Relying solely on data and second-hand information is more helpful if combined with real-life experience.
Therefore, we advise as a multi-agency partnership you should observe your night time economy once a quarter or as a minimum twice a year, seeing it in all its different seasons will help you to understand how it’s used and who is using it.
We would also advise staying out from 7pm or 8pm until 30 minutes after the latest closing time to see the ENTE in its entirety. Do take regular breaks, stop and eat or have a drink in local bar or restaurant and observe the clientele and the atmosphere. You will find it enlightening and it may tell you a story about the people that are using the night time economy but also the people who are missing.
Before the overnight audits you should agree what you are going to assess; it could be things such as diversity of offer, public realm, lighting, behaviour, safety, transport, training, compliance or enforcement. Be open and alert to issues.
Go incognito (no clipboards) and do talk to members of the public, night time economy workers, police officers, council cleansing staff, transport providers and seek their vitally important views. Take photos of anything of particular interest as an aide memoire and to share with other members of your partnership who couldn’t come on the audit that time.
Don’t be afraid to call in the specialists who can look at your area with fresh eyes, even something as simple as one overnight audit by professionals such as ourselves can help you identify issues and find creative solutions.
5. Have a vision
Work with your partners to create a united mission that you can all support. This may mean compromise; however, it will be worth creating a vision to keep you on track. Ask yourself these questions, what do we want the night time economy to look like in 2, 5 or 10 years? What do we want people to think when they visit our area at night? How do we want people to feel? What businesses do we want that we don’t have? What does our public realm look like and is it as good during the day as it is at night? And how do we go about making this happen? Perform a SWOT analysis. Make sure that it ties in with any other visions such as town or city centre strategies and policing plans. This will ensure it’s easy to adopt by the wider partnership.
6. Create an action plan
Once you have agreed on issues that need resolving, create an action plan with dates and owners. Meet quarterly to hold each other to account, and work through issues.
7. Be honest
Every area has its issues and its good points. All of your team will see the area you live in slightly differently. Be honest with each other about the strengths and weaknesses and don’t apportion blame but resolve to work together to improve it.
8. Regularly review progress
Lots of areas launch projects in the night-time economy, however from the areas that we have worked with, very few regularly assess the effectiveness of them.
You will need to decide from the start of the project what parameters you are going to use to define success. For example, if you launch a Safe Space it may be number of people helped, number of people diverted away from A&E, number of brief interventions, but there could be softer successes such as reduced ASB, more intelligence, fewer noise complaints, people reporting feeling safer.
If you have a university in your city, we’ve found that by creating a relationship with that university you can create a mutually beneficial partnership. Students are an ideal resource to use to analyse the success of projects if they can use that effectively in their studies or towards securing additional marks.
9. Get your marketing right
No-one will come to an area if they don’t know the great things that you have going on. Make it easy to find great events, activities, places to eat. Ensure all of the partners have a combined marketing strategy and shared voice and tone when it comes to the night-time economy. Share success. For every one bad story such as violence share three good stories such as new businesses opening, securing Purple Flag, great events for a diverse audience, new public realm projects and so on.
10. Seek wisdom
We’ve just written 11 best practise night time economy case studies for the Local Government Association. The one thing that struck us was that many of the areas had very similar issues but used a variety of ways to try and tackle them, with varying degrees of success.
Nearly every area that we work with has similar issues and one of the things that our clients say they really valued from working with us is being able to share best practice from other areas.
Don’t be too proud to reach out to other similar areas, or to use things that have been successful elsewhere (borrow with pride) and also don’t be afraid to reach out to experts for additional support, you may not need them to write the whole strategy for you, but maybe you could value some time problem solving or gathering perceptions or liaising with the trade.
If you would like us to conduct an audit of your area or help you write your night-time economy strategy, we’d love to hear from you! Contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org. We even offer a free 30 minute telephone consultation. We look forward to hearing from you!
By Jo Cox-Brown Co-Founder Night Time Economy Solutions