THE year ahead will see ‘Brand Tonbridge’ come into its own. That’s the prediction from the Tonbridge Town Team and MP Tom Tugendhat who this week reflected on an ‘astonishing year’ for the area’s independent retailers.
From the renovation of the High Street, to new housing developments in the town centre as well as the appearance of several new small enterprises, 2016 was a period of fast paced development for Tonbridge.
Figures released by the Town Team show there was substantial growth in trade for local retailers, which is set to continue into the New Year.
Up to 500 people every month used their Tonbridge Loyalty Cards (TLC) to shop at one of the 60 retailers who are signed up to the scheme, a significant increase from 2015, when the figure was consistently in the 300s.
The scheme encourages people to shop at their local outlets where customers must spend at least £30 in six separate visits to be eligible for the prize of a £50 voucher.
Looking forward the Town Team, ‘expect to see the scheme continue to grow’, according to Chair, Howard Porter, as they aim to increase the number of traders involved by 15 per cent.
He explained the project acts ‘as a basis for building a Tonbridge brand that will drive economic regeneration and prosperity, especially for the independent retail sector’. Something the 12-member team have been working on since 2012.
The introduction of a new Love Local Card in the coming months is also expected to ‘bring another inducement to shop locally’. The card has already proved a success in Sevenoaks, where 160 local traders are signed up to provide exclusive discounts to cardholders. It is run as an independent venture but has the support of the Town Team.
Overall Mr Porter, who has a background in graphic design and advertising, is optimistic for the future of the town: “Tonbridge is clearly on the up. More and more businesses are looking to relocate here.
“There is a lot of uncertainty in the coming years, but being in Tonbridge means you have a strong chance of success.”
MP Tom Tugendhat echoed Mr Porter’s optimism. He cited the recent Halifax Quality of Life Survey, which ranked Tonbridge & Malling as the 14th best place to live in the UK, as evidence that the town is beginning to get the recognition it deserves.
“To many of us, this is not news. We’ve always known what a great place Tonbridge is. Our town is on the up and the reasons are multiplying. Our high street has led the way with a range of fabulous independent shops.”