Guildford Independent’s Day

 boatman on town wharf

boatman on town wharf

4 July 2014, Guildford Independent’s Day, a celebration of the many independent retailers and eateries and pubs in Guildford.

According to Experience Guildford, around 200, nearly 40% of the businesses.

Move off the High Street and into the side streets, and there you will find many independents. And even the High Street has a fair few.

  • The Joint
  • Food For Thought
  • Glutton & Glee
  • Ben’s Records
  • The Keystone

Experience Guildford have drawn a map (the cartography leaves much to be desired) and put together a list, visit at least three, get your map stamped (copies from Tourist Information), and you are in with a chance to win £100 to spend (one assumes in the same indie businesses listed).

I do not know how the list was drawn up, who to include, who to exclude. Why is the excellent Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage not included? Or the Guildford Institute (excellent for Friday lunch) or the farmers market? No franchise should be included. To include franchises opens the doors to Costa and McDonald’s, which makes a mockery of any initiative to support local businesses.

There seems to be very little publicity. I was aware and picked up a map from the ever helpful Tourist Information, but have seen no information in any of the participants.

A few of the indy businesses are offering extras if you show the map. Not my experience at The Keystone, nor did they have any of the maps on display (though did say they had and would put out when they got around to it).

When you spend money in an indie shop, it gets retained and recycled within the local economy. If you spend it in a chain, it is lost to the local economy.

If this exercise is to repeated next year, then I would strongly advise tie in with the launch of a local currency, the Guildford Pound. The lucky winners, would receive one hundred Guildford Pounds. For each map handed out by the Tourist Information, provide one Guildford Pound to spend. Local artists could design. Look to Totnes Pound (which has just been relaunched with new notes), and where they had their currency printed.

Other towns please note and implement.

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2 Responses to “Guildford Independent’s Day”

  1. keithpp Says:

    Last week, I learnt of Guildford Independent’s Day (launched 4 July), an excellent idea. Today, I visited some of the places listed, and learnt more of the scheme.

    Within a delineated area (no idea how chosen) businesses had a vote, to set up a business development zone, valid for five years. But, the voting seriously flawed, not one vote per businesses, but votes according to business rate, thus effectively money buying votes. The vote was a yes. Net result, a 1% levy on all businesses which goes to finance various schemes, one of which was Guildford Independents’s Day. Possibly, the only worthwhile thing they have done. Most seems to be gimmicks to justify their existence. For example, free car parking on a Saturday. Guildford is packed on a Saturday, thus pointless. Another is Town Rangers. I saw a couple last week. I had no idea what they were. A private vigilante force? Apparently they are there to help people, give directions. But does anyone know this? I, as does everyone else, enquires at the Tourist Information, from where you can also learn more about Guildford Independent’s Day.

    Of the independent businesses listed I visited, around half had the maps on display. I saw no publicity. Apparently the Town Rangers visited, and left a canvas shoulder bag full of the maps.

    Which then begs the question, if every business has to pay the levy, why are not all independent businesses listed, for example Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage? I was told some did not wish to be listed, but that defies common sense.

    I floated the idea of a Guildford Pound. Everyone liked the idea. Let us hope, launch next year. The 1% levy has I was told brought in half a million pounds. More than sufficient to back a local currency. The only question, is backed by real money? It does not have to be. The WIR (regional currency in Switzerland), is backed simply by all retailers who join the scheme being willing to accept. Exchange rate one Guildford Pound equals one Pound Stirling. Businesses could offer incentives if paid in Guildford Pounds, thus increasing its real value.

    One strange feature of the scheme (not mentioned on the map), is you do not have to buy anything off any of the businesses listed. Whilst this may bring people through the door (who may then buy), I feel it is only fair to make a purchase to get the map stamped.

    One map now stamped and handed in to Tourist Information. No limit on how many handed in. I have not checked if can make repeat visits and get stamped again. None of the retailers visited said not.

    Ben in Ben’s Records was giving a map with purchases. I did not notice any other business doing this, or even mention the scheme. Several though told me, they make a point of supporting other businesses (something a local currency would reinforce).

    No one was happy with franchises being listed.

    I have slight qualms, is this a data collection exercise? I hope not, as it would do enormous damage were it learnt to be.

    Last week, at the Godalming Food Festival, I mentioned to several indie businesses the scheme and showed them the map. They all thought a great idea and would like to see a similar scheme launched in Godalming. I picked up a few maps which I will drop off.

  2. keithpp Says:

    The promotion is now over, but it would be a good idea if the indie businesses retained the maps to hand out (many are doing this), as although the maps can no longer be stamped, they provide an excellent guide to the many indie businesses in Guildford.

    During July, I found the indie businesses I visited were making the maps available, many had on their counters, The Keystone had on all their tables, Ben’s Record’s was handing to customers.

    For next year, the franchises listed must be removed, otherwise makes a mockery of the promotion.

    Thai restaurant in Jeffries Passage not the only indie business to be omitted. Until I asked why were they not listed, they was not even aware.

    Experience Guildford are looking for projects to fund, kickstart that will leave a lasting legacy for Guildford. Here are a few suggestions:

    – Guildford Pound
    – Ambient Green Picnic
    – Guildford Food Festival
    – Fringe Book Festival
    – launch of Transition Town Guildford

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