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‘Experiential’ touch points key to Chesterfield’s post-digital high street

Tuesday, March 31st, 2020

Often, the terms ‘digital’ and ‘high street’ are painted as enemies on a retail battlefield. Chesterfield, however, is combining the two to create a successful post-digital high street, bringing the benefits of the digital age to a more traditional, physical setting.

A study by Loughborough University and the Economic & Social Research Council found that the “experiential” touch points in a town centre – including social interaction, visits to cafes and restaurants and atmosphere – heighten enjoyment, prolong dwell time, increase spend and deter consumers from resorting to the online alternative.

Vicar Lane Shopping Centre in Chesterfield

More encouragingly, it was found that smaller towns, like Chesterfield, appear to be better equipped to enhance the customer experience in this way.

Already, Chesterfield is investing significantly in its town centre and the wider borough, creating new homes, offices and car parking.

Elder Way is at the heart of Chesterfield Borough Council’s Northern Gateway scheme which also comprises 32 offices for small businesses. There are also plans for significant development of the public realm surrounding Elder Way, including the creation of pedestrianised areas and public seating.

The redevelopment of the iconic former Co-op department store building at Elder Way by Jomast heralded the start of the Northern Gateway scheme.

ow home to a Premier Inn hotel on the upper floors, Elder Way is already becoming recognised as one of Chesterfield town centre’s ‘experiential’ touchpoints ahead of the basement and ground floor being converted into cafes, bars and restaurants with attractive outside dining areas.

There is more good news. Chesterfield is already ahead of the curve when it comes to implementing the study’s recommendations to ‘Exploit and integrate the digital experience’. Vicar Lane Shopping Centre, which is owned by Alterx, won the gold award in the Re:wired category at the recent REVO Gold Awards for its use of digital technology to increase footfall.

Alterx is actively using social media to monitor and communicate with its customers to understand what they want from Vicar Lane. This has led to a new approach to the leasing of empty shops with Steeplegate coming to life again as a venue for independent brands.

The approach has also helped shape the development of the centre’s marketing and promotions and led to innovations like the installation of giant screen in St James’ Square.

Mark Hill, Development Director of Elder Way explained: “The UK’s shoppers have definitely NOT deserted their local high streets but we now know that when people visit town centres they want something that can’t be achieved from online shopping – an experience. That’s why food and drink businesses, particularly independents, are our preferred tenants in the new space at Elder Way.

“Elder Way is an iconic and beautiful building and we want businesses that reflect that to ensure it becomes the go-to leisure destination in the town centre.”

There has already been strong interest in the ground floor units at Elder Way, leading Jomast to increase the number of available units from seven to eight.

If you want to be part of Chesterfield’s new leisure quarter, get in touch with our team now to discover what Elder Way can offer your business.

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