Revive & Thrive puts tech at core of high street reform

Tomorrow (1 October) sees the launch of a new competition to encourage innovation on the high street, as retail and technology experts across the UK come together with the aim of transforming local communities.

A partnership of professionals working in high street regeneration, business improvement district development, crowdfunding, marketing, loyalty and digital technology is running the Revive & Thrive Challenge, which will reward forward-thinking ideas for high street evolution.

There is a £150,000 and rising prize package for the town of any individual, retailer, town centre management group, local council or other organisation which generates the best idea for connectivity and engagement in their local community. It is hoped that the competition will become a regular event and stimulate perennial innovative activity amongst local business communities.

Prize money has come from donations, with Revive & Thrive organiser and managing director Mark Barnes suggesting that it proves there is an appetite for proactive high street change from the commercial world.

"We're hoping to capture people's imagination," explained Barnes, a former town centre manager.

"There's no waiting and no approval needed for this initiative – we can show that things can be done just by asking businesses to get involved. Revive & Thrive Challenge could become an annual, national event; we've gone from £0 to £150,000 in donations in just five weeks."

Other members of the partnership include retail sales and marketing expert Corin Birchall, retail and mixed use architect John Burrows, and technology innovation strategist Heath Cormack, but the group is keen for new participants from all areas of retail.

All those involved have been involved in the retail industry or are passionate about improving the current state of the UK high street, which many commentators believe is being dealt a harsh hand with rising business rates and unfavourable planning regulations. Local Data Company research says that vacancy rates currently stand at around 14%.

Technological advancement continues at pace, and there are many who feel that the high street will only be able to thrive if it embraces new tech systems and mobile marketing initiatives to ensure people want to spend time there.

Cormack told Essential Retail: "No two places are the same and retailing needs to become more about localisation and personalisation to be in tune with local needs, customs and cultures to become more successful and meaningful.

"The Revive & Thrive Challenge has shown a real passion from many areas across the UK about coming together in an interesting way to offer the support to make a difference. It shows buy-in and commitment to changing things for the better to connect communities."

Revive & Thrive is inviting new interest for people and business to showcase their skills, expertise, goods and services and the final prize package is expected to continue to grow. Revive & Thrive is also inviting interest from individuals and businesses who might want to join the partnership or business group. For more information please see www.reviveandthrive.co.uk.

Winners of the Revive & Thrive Challenge will be announced at RBTE 2014, the UK and Europe's leading retail solutions show, which runs from 11-12 March.