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Gloucestershire Business News

County towns blaze a trail for shopping

Gloucestershire towns are punching above their weight and blazing a trail for getting shoppers back to the high street, using digital marketing methods. Only the UK's biggest cities, including London, Manchester, Bristol and Birmingham, rank higher than Cheltenham and Gloucester on the UK Digital Influence Index.

Cheltenham and Gloucester have digital influence in the top 12 of the country, ahead of cities like Leicester and Liverpool.

Gloucester and Cheltenham were the first places in the country to adopt the #WDYT  social media campaign. The government-supported campaign, initiated by GFirst LEP, demonstrates how towns that increase their digital influence also increase their physical footfall.

Stroud and Tewkesbury also adopted the campaign early on and have seen sizeable increases in their digital influence.

Polly Barnfield, OBE who runs #WDYT, said: "We see a clear link between digital activity and physical footfall. Shoppers increasingly start their journey online. Every town and city in the UK is now a sum of its digital parts. It's key that high street businesses become more proactive digitally - and that starts with social media."

Sophie Scarrott from Keith Scarrott shoes, an independent shoe retailer in Cheltenham says "Since we have been involved in this pilot I have seen how digital channels can support my high street business. My offline and online sales have grown significantly and we now communicate via an extended, social media driven, shop window. Digital channels are helping me grow my business and drive local footfall, it's not one or other channel, my customers expect both."

Jason Smith, chief executive of Marketing Gloucester, said: "The #WDYT campaign is a catalyst to enabling collaboration in our city. It demonstrates how you can use social media and digital channels to drive high street footfall."

By contrast, the 12 Portas towns - towns chosen to rejuvenate their shopping areas with a government grant and support from retail expert Mary Portas - all featured low down on the retail index.

The UK Digital Influence Index measures the digital output of over 1,300 towns and cities based on the social media activity of over 150,000 retailers venues.

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