On-line shopping has taken a flight over the last years, with large digital operators with no need for physical spaces gaining ground, and with large retail chains complementing their physical shop activities with very active webshops. Smaller commerce and retail operators have great difficulties in competing in this environment.
The crisis from the last years has put additional strain on smaller commerce and retail businesses, which has led to the closure of many businesses in areas which were once the commercial centre of the town or neighbourhood. This has not only affected the commerce and retail sector, but also the hospitality and cultural businesses in these areas. A commercial area with less commerce or retail is prone to loose visitors, which in turn has a spill over effect on the hospitality and cultural businesses in the area. In many medium-sized and bigger towns, large malls on the outskirts offer a “one-stop-experience” for shopping, culture and hospitality, generating even more difficulties for the smaller ones in the centres to subsist.
Not only the retail, commerce, culture and hospitality sectors are aware of this issue, but the deterioration of commercial areas, has raised interest from municipalities and civic organisations, as the reduction in retail, commerce, hospitality and cultural activities in these kind of areas results in an overall deterioration of the area, with less movements of persons. Many municipalities are looking for solutions which can help them to give new live to these kind of areas and spaces.
Trends related to increased awareness among consumers about sustainability issues, the impact their decisions have on the environment, and the “slow”-movement (which advocates a cultural shift toward slowing down life's pace, and of which the “slow-food” movement is the most well-known), generate ample opportunities to bring about the so-much desired change. Proximity products and services are gaining ground. Also, consumers nowadays not only acquire a product or services, but look for an “experience” or a statement with regards to their preferences and lifestyles. If one merely wants to buy a product, going on-line is for many the obvious option, so attracting consumers/visitors to the commercial areas requires an added value, e.g. an experience, or a combination of products or services not easily found somewhere else that are sustainable, ecological and environment-friendly.
Although there are already some initiatives springing up in commercial area, which cover the consumer demands with regards to sustainability, proximity and the slow movement such as shops which offer products in bulk so the consumer can buy exactly the needed amount, or those offering local ecological produce, there are many which have not adapted to this new setting. It is difficult for a small commerce, retail, hospitality or cultural/creative business to provide answers to the aforementioned challenges individually, and when they do, the impact is limited to the specific type of consumers they address, with less possibility of opening up their offerings to other types of consumers. Hence intense collaboration through the joint creation, design and implementation of new products and/or services, offering the consumer the needed experience is key.
The present project aims to provide an answer to the aforementioned challenges by offering a learning programme aimed at owners, managers and self-employed persons of small retail, commerce, hospitality and cultural/creative businesses in commercial areas in decay (or at risk of) which gives them the knowledge, skills and competences to:
By acquiring these skills they will be able individually and jointly provide an answer to the demands of the sustainable conscious and digital-native consumer, open to the slow-movement concept and compete through differentiation offering a different and unique experience.