Dartmouth footfall week 2 2018 and the DVC

Here are the Dartmouth footfall measurements for week 2 2018. Again they show a dramatic drop compared to the same week last year.

Let me explain for the benefit of the Mayor, Richard Cooke, who does not seem to want to accept these numbers as meaningful. They are provided by Springboard, an international company recognised as the leading provider of data for measuring the performance of High streets and stores. They have an established reputation for the accuracy of their data and their reports are often quoted by governments as indicators of economic performance. Dartmouth retains one Springboard camera overlooking the quay which is probably the focal point of Dartmouth’s retail center and will give a fair indication of visitor numbers to the town. Of course it is not an absolute figure but without counting every person coming in on the ferry and by road it is the best indicator we have.

If you watch the Top-Cameraman video of the Council meeting (see previous post) you will hear that the Mayor also challenged the fact that footfall was down during the regatta this year.

To explain that - the numbers that were down were the week on week comparisons, so the decreased footfall means that there were about 12% less visitors in the quay area during regatta week compared to the previous week. Probably indicating that the increased visitor numbers are more focused around the river embankment stalls rather than in the town center. I suspect many town center businesses will endorse that view, indicating that the town center tends to lose out during regatta because of the embankment stalls.

Finally in the Video you will also see that Cllr Allen asked the Chairman of the DVC if he had thought about carrying out a survey of businesses and/or visitors. The  response was, I quote  “I don’t know what questions to ask!”.

Here is our suggestion for some of the questions that need asking of local businesses, especially in view of the fact that subscriptions were the main source of income for the TIC just a few years ago:

  1. Are you subscribing to the DVC each year.
  2. If not why not?
  3. What must the DVC do to regain your subscription?
  4. If you are subscribing, are you happy with the value the DVC provides?
  5. Where do you think the DVC could improve its service to subscribers and visitors?

That’s just a few of the areas that might help the DVC understand how best to support Dartmouth’s tourist economy. Experience tells you that you must know your customers well to succeed in your chosen sector, so in our view a survey would be a very good idea. There is no doubt that the DVC does a good job as a visitor center, but the problem we have is getting the visitors here in the first place. That is where the DVC can do the most to help the towns economy.

This Blog would be very happy to help the DVC carry out this kind of survey among its 340 subscribers.

The first Paragraph of the Town Councils strategy document:


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  1. Members of the business community rejected paying to sustain the BID

    And as a result it collapsed and the major BID contributions to advertise the town from Sainsburys, Lidls, Marks and Spencer and the COOP were lost

    And now shopkeepers like Paul Reach have come to the town council to provide rate payers’ money to advertise the town

    Many of us residents say no

    And we hope the town council will stand firm against this

    Yesterday the government said it would not pay the shareholders of Carillion for their losses in going bankrupt

    And the same applies to Dartmouth residential council tax payers and private businesses in the town

    Brian Boughton

    • Firstly Brian the business community voted 2 to 1 in favour of funding the BID Business Plan, what they rejected was the BID Company, a separate legal entity to the BID District, which had failed to deliver what was promised in the BID plan. That is different. Most businesses were prepared to fund the marketing plan but we failed to deliver it. No one regrets that failure more than I do, but it is history now and sadly we wont get that opportunity again.
      Secondly I am a rate payer as well as a business man so I have every right to comment on my Councils expenditure.
      Thirdly I was suggesting that the Dartmouth Visitor Center DVC had the key role to play, not the Council (although the Council now controls the DVC). The DVC are a non profit company but they must still make gross profit in order to fund their activities, which in my view includes marketing the town and the businesses in it, that is what subscriber are paying them for. They will always argue that they do not have enough subscription income to do that, so that is why I suggest they carry out a survey to see how they can resurrect the subscription income which used to be 80% of their finance. Subscriptions have been declining for over 10 years now and so far there has not been a change of DVC strategy to correct this, apart from giving away our marketing tools, the Town Website and Brochure, to outside contractors. A user survey would help to identify how to get that income back again.
      Fourthly let me include the first paragraph of the Town Councils strategy document prepared under the Chairmanship of Cllr Gent: I will place it at the end of my Post above.

  2. I am interested to learn that you believe the Quay to be the focal point of Dartmouth’s retail economy. What a sad thought - leaving aside the hotel and the law firm, we have a chemist, a gift shop, an ice-cream parlour, a restaurant and three expensive clothing stores. Seven businesses, four of them chain stores. It might have been representative once, when we had the TSB there, as well as an opticians and a grocers, but no longer. And you must admit that anyone who parks in the carpark or along the Embankment can stroll straight to Duke Street or Foss Street without touching the Quay. Actual footfall in the town is bound to be higher than you suggest.

    Some questions for you to answer: how far does footfall equate to actual retail sales? If I walk from Duke Street to Fairfax Place along the Quay and then back again, do my journeys count as footfall? And as I do not enter or even look in the windows of most of those shops, how does my footfall help? As I think you know, I do all my shopping in the town, but mostly in Duke Street and the Market, therefore your footfall statistics will not register my presence. Final question: are these figures so flawed that no sensible person would pay much attention to them?

  3. Another Town Councillor who challenges the meaning of the numbers rather than acting to reverse them! If you think they are flawed then please come up with some better ones.
    Footfall in the town can’t be higher than I suggest because I do not give any absolute figures, they are merely comparative for the same location.
    David if you look at the town center map then the quay is physically roughly in the town center. I am disappointed that you still see Fosse Street as the center of town, as will many of the Lower Street and Fairfax Place traders who maintain a vibrant retail district in the town. Maybe not on your patch but you are not a visitor. The number of visitors who walk down to Bayards Cove and the Lower street area gives a fair indication of visitor numbers. Questioning the meaning of the numbers is irrelevant as they simply compare this year to last year. The same questions apply to both years. Of course it would be good to get at the actual turnover figures from the town businesses but I am sure they will be rightly reluctant to divulge that information. Perhaps you could ask a few. In the absence of any other indicators of activity in the town center surely it is better to respond to the only indicator we have rather than challenging the numbers. That’s what most bankrupt companies do before they go down.

  4. Paul, I am highly amused by your statement that I am another town councillor who questions the meaning of the footfall figures instead of doing something about6 them. You have more faith than I do in their accuracy, but I note that you do not attempt to answer any of the questions I posed. Incidentally, I did not say that Foss Street (please note the correct spelling) was the centre of the town. This seems an attempt to misrepresent my views.I expect a correction; I won’t ask for an apology.

  5. Sorry about the spelling error, I used to go flossefahrting in Munich, got confused.
    I will try and help you to understand how footfall cameras work, as you are clearly struggling with the technology, by answering your questions again. They measure in one spot to give a consistent comparative indicator of traffic levels. The measurements are proven to be 96% accurate but they cannot possibly measure streets they are not sited on. So no your trips to the Wheelhouse will not be measured. Remember though these are YOY comparisons, they show relative changes only but relative changes are a good indicator of trends. Fortunately most sensible people understand that without explanation. As I answered before it is very difficult to equate footfall to business turnover necause that is confidential information which most businesses will not tell you. If you have run a business you will understand that. However the Springboard footfall indicators for the UK high streets have demonstrated a high level of correlation to high street turnover in the past so you would be unwise to ignore footfall as an indicator of economic activity. In summary your objections are just attempts to avoid a reality which is costing this town its prosperous future. Were you one of the Councillors who voted against the BID? I cant remember.

  6. Thanks for your sarcastic response, Paul. I understand perfectly well how the whole footfall thing works, especially the fact that they are static. I also accept that Lower Street is a “vibrant retail district”, but how can you say that with such certainty without footfall statistics to back it up?

  7. Sorry, Paul, I wanted to add this, but was caught on the telephone. My problem with the footfall thing is simple: it is simply one piece of evidence - we need not debate why there are not more monitors. I have, for your information, run two businesses, a retail business in Dartmouth with my late wife, and a consultancy that operated nationally. There are all sorts of factors that influence your business - from greedy landlords to the weather. Sometimes a business suffers because people just don’t like what they are selling. Often these are beyond our control - now that Dartmouth is about to become bankless, that may well affect trade. And, of course, you are right: marketing is important. WE did a lot when we had the shop (less so in my other business where I took advantage of the oldest and best form of marketing: word of mouth recommendations). Yes, we did it. I didn’t expect the Chamber of Trade or the TIC (as it then was) or the Town Council to do it for us. Surely the local businesses have a role to play? Instead of berating the Town Council , why not try whipping up the people with most to gain?

    • Sorry if I sounded sarcastic, not meant to be. You are right it is only one piece of evidence but it the only consistent one we have. Hilary Bastone mentioned 60000 visitors to the DVC at the Council meeting but not one councillor asked what the level was 5 years ago (I remember some quoted numbers of 150,000 some years ago) that is under Council control but you are not holding the DVC Board to account as you should do.
      As for marketing it is carried out at many levels. The town must be promoted using destination marketing methods to bring visitors here in the first place, then the businesses must promote their usp’s to get the visitors to come to them when they visit. Businesses spend enough promoting their own business they can’t afford to promote the town as well. Multi level marketing is the term I believe. I only reason I expected the TIC to promote the town and businesses was because that is exactly what the subscribers are paying them for. We used to pay between £300 and £600 pa to have our business promoted. Sadly neither the DVC nor the Council seem to understand that, and that is why they have lost so many subscribers. I also expected the Chamber of Trade to continue to fight the cause of businesses in the town, because that was why I paid their subscription (and still do!). During my 5 years in the Chair of the Business Forum (as the members voted to call it) I fought hard for the causes that effected the businesses in town culminating with the BID. Sadly the Chamber has also now disappeared. So I have to use this blog to hold you to account!( Only joking!)
      As for my obsession with footfall, why do you think the Banks are closing? why is the Hospital closing. Ask the banks “its the footfall stupid!!!!” as somebody famous once said, or that is at least a part of the reason. It is not just the businesses that suffer when footfall drops, the whole infrastructure is affected and sadly too many people don’t understand it.
      As for me whipping up people to do something about it, have you already forgotten the BID (which you voted against!).

  8. The central issue is not whether correspondents can spell, or who is entitled to a view or even whether footfall figures are accurate. The truth of the state of the town’s tourist economy will be in the tax returns of local retail businesses, and April 6th is not far off now.
    The central issue is whether private businesses themselves or the residential council tax payers should pay to advertise local small businesses to summer tourists.
    The town council is absolutely right to question this and if it doesn’t stamp out this debate soon it could be faced with a Parish poll of disgruntled tax payers

    • Brian the private businesses used to pay the TIC to promote their businesses. The TIC, or DVC as it is now known, is now run by the Council, the Board of directors is made up of Councillors, so the Council has taken on that responsibility. I don’t want the Council (taxpayers) to subsidise the DVC, I want the DVC to be self funding and I believe that will only be possible if they get the subscription revenues back up to their 2008 levels. They need to be using modern digital marketing methods to entice the subscribers back into the fold, because subsidies from the Council, which is what they are after, will continue to be cut back from central government. It is vital the DVC becomes self sufficient but it looks a long way off today now the website and brochure have gone to outside contractors.

  9. Paul. You are beginning to address the issue, but with obfuscation not clarity. If you believe residential tax payers should bale out Dartmouth High Street tourist businesses then a parish poll is the only way to resolve it

  10. I thought it was clear above Brian “I do not want tax payers paying for promoting the town”. The responsibility resides with the DVC which is not funded by the tax payer apart from a small grant each year. I am simply pointing out that the Council now has management responsibility for the DVC with three board members, and should be making sure it is promoting the town on a self funding basis like it used to.
    As you know the whole point of the BID was to get the businesses to invest in their town, and the majority wanted to do that.

  11. When I was involved with the TIC we always got over 100,000 visitors a year. We also took about £120K a year from the guide and we kept all the profit that was quite substantial. We had a little help from others and we were grateful, id did help, but was basically pocket money. Our website cost a few hundred pounds a year and was perfectly adequate.

    Compare to recent events when the TIC recklessly spent £1K a month, yes one thousand pounds every month.

    Worst still they gave away the guide, it’s a shadow of it’s former self and the TIC now only gets 10% of the profit (not turnover), this is a tiny amount. Last year there were apparently “set-up” costs that made the amount the TIC received very tiny indeed. This is odd since the QuarkXPress template existed and required no setting up.

    I could go on…………………………………..

    • Compare to recent events when the TIC recklessly spent £1K a month, yes one thousand pounds every month.

      THIS was just on a website !!

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