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Waffle free Hambleton Business Conference

View profile for Peter Mills
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Last Friday's Hambleton Business Conference was waffle-free, for all the right reasons - and I'm not talking about the catering. This year's conference, at The Hawkhills, near Easingwold, was particularly strong on useful data and practical insights and remarkably free of the kinds of platitudes that can swamp these sort of events. Credit goes to the Hambleton District Council's Business and Economy Team, who clearly put a lot of thought into the conference programme.

Entitled 'Vibrant Market Towns', the focus was on how to nurture Hambleton's five key market towns: Bedale, Easingwold, Northallerton, Stokesley and Thirsk. Harrowells has branch offices in two of these towns and business and personal clients drawn from across the Hambleton District, so we pay close attention to initiatives designed to boost local prosperity and the general quality of life in this particular part of Yorkshire.

Michael Weedon, former Director for the British Independent Retail Association, presented up-to-date statistics showing current trends in retail openings and closures across the UK's city centres, retail parks, market towns and local shopping parades. The good news is that market towns are fairing well, with overall vacancy rates at low levels and independent retailers continuing to play an important and successful role in the make-up of local towns - particularly those businesses focused on service rather than 'pure product'; a trend that tends to play to the strengths of North Yorkshire market towns.

Later in the proceedings, David McKnight - tasked by Hambleton District Council to galvanise business initiatives in each market town - set out practical examples of what is currently being achieved across the district. Significantly, he also emphasised the need for local businesses to collaborate on the joint promotion of their local town - whether through social media, events or other promotional activity. This echoed Johnny Hayes' central message in his presentation about the success of the Bishopthorpe Road ('Bishy Road') Traders Association in York in turning around the fortunes of their inner-city shopping parade.

Whilst our business already plays an active role in various market town initiatives across North and East Yorkshire, the conference has certainly opened our eyes to the scope of what can be achieved through local collaboration and involvement.

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