The UK’s High Streets have had a tough time of it lately, as customers have flocked online to digital stores, away from the pavements of town centres. These already challenging circumstances intensified when COVID-19 hit, forcing many shops and businesses to question how they would survive with an almost non-existent footfall on their streets.
In Princes Risborough, a small town situated in Buckinghamshire, their High Street (like many others up and down the country) felt the devastating impact of social distancing and of people being asked to stay at home. However, Princes Risborough Town Council, spearheaded by Town Mayor Matthew Walsh, came up with a plan: they commissioned marketing & web agency EMSL to create an innovative online portal and expert retail consultants Retail Revival to work with local businesses, to take on the fight against the coronavirus and the impact it was having on local shops.
As the impact of COVID-19 started to be felt, EMSL were approached by long-term partners Retail Revival, to help create and facilitate a ground-breaking approach to support Princes Risborough and its local high street businesses.
With social distancing coming into effect, a new system was devised to help customers avoid risking their own health (by helping them to stay inside), yet continue to shop and support their local businesses. The new system aimed to take the High Street directly to people’s homes, in a simple, convenient and safe way – all on the same day.
Within a matter of days, EMSL developed and built an online portal to help residents find and contact stores that were operating and available for home deliveries: The Risborough Basket1 was born. On the ground, Retail Revival coordinated with local business to join the scheme and add their details to EMSL’s portal, whilst the town council repurposed their local public transport vehicles – such as minibuses – to courier orders from local businesses to residents’ doorsteps. Now, a wide range of local businesses - from butchers and wine bars, to corner shops and pet stores - are participating and able to continue operating during these unprecedented times.
This project wasn’t without its challenges. Every local business had its own unique way of taking orders and payments. Some were able to take online payments, others were not. Some were able to more easily list their stock while others could not. The portal was designed to help each business clearly and quickly communicate their way of operating and to ensure that the user’s experience was easy and stress-free.
Through this extraordinary collaboration, during extraordinary times, the Risborough Basket has taken off, keeping many shops alive during some of the most challenging times the High Street has ever faced.
It’s early days, but in the first two weeks alone (from the 30th March) it has surpassed all expectations:
If COVID-19 has taught us nothing else, it is that people need real-world experiences, including contact and connection with their local businesses. Although it has been a tough time for the High Street in recent years and exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic, it is evident that, if given the right support and tools to do so, it can still play an incredibly important role within towns and cities across the country. The High Street just needs some help to adapt to the new world we all live in. Innovative approaches such as the Risborough Basket have shown that it is possible to survive - and potentially thrive - not just during an unprecedented pandemic, but long after.
If you work on the high street, for a local authority or within a cooperation of local businesses, and you are looking for new ways to overcome these unprecedented times, EMSL are here to help.Find out more
“We’ve had a phenomenal response to the Risborough Basket. It was launched within 9 days of the original ideas being created. What it has done within 9 days is create an online platform that has allowed our High Street retailers to get goods out to our residents across the whole of Princes Risborough, to benefit those at most risk. Over 1,200 deliveries in the last 10 days. I would like to thank everyone who has been a part of this project“ – Matthew Walsh, Princes Risborough Mayor and Chairman of the council
“EMSL support has been critical in bringing the Risborough Basket to life. They were able to rapidly pull together an innovative portal in response to the unprecedented challenges local businesses were facing as a result of the coronavirus. Since going live, the Basket has been a huge success - we’re having to put in 12-hour days just to keep up with orders! We’d like to thank the whole EMSL team for their efforts and support in getting this project over the line. It is making a real difference to the lives of businesses owners and residents in Princes Risborough, particularly the elderly and vulnerable who have benefited most” – Sally Williams, Retail Revival
“As a family who have had to self-isolate, initiatives such as the Risborough Basket have been a great way for us to access local stores, to get the food and provisions we need, and also to get a great feeling for supporting local retailer, at a time when life is really, really tough for them” – Local resident via ITV News Meridian
“Last week we were really down, but after the Basket [launched] we are really busy – beyond what we were hoping to expect. We’re doing really well at the moment” – Local business owner via ITV News Meridian
1The Princes Risborough Basket is based on an original concept created by Princes Risborough Town Council. EMSL was commissioned by Retail Revival to implement the online platform for this project. The brand name and logo were created by Mess, an integrated agency in London.