A PUBLIC meeting has been called to discuss a marketing campaign aimed at revitalising the fortunes of Okehampton’s town centre shops and businesses.
Town councillor Paul Vachon will unveil the plans – including proposals for a ‘currency’, the Okehampton pound – at a meeting in the Charter Hall at 7pm on Wednesday, January 23.
He is proposing that the not-for-profit organisation could take over responsibility for staging events such as Edwardian Evening from the struggling Okehampton and District Chamber of Trade.
The plans include issuing banknotes in the form of the Okehampton pound to use in part-payment in shops in the town, to encourage loyalty in the face of online competition.
’We have a growing population and the proposed reinstatement of rail services to Exeter, said Cllr Vachon. ‘We have Dartmoor on our doorstep and several tourist attractions in the town. We just need to channel these potential customers into our shops and businesses.
‘Although there are several promotional and advertising portals – websites and social media and a tourist information point, Okehampton does not have a marketing plan, dedicated visitor centre or promotion strategy.
‘I produced a town guide last year and started distributing it to tourist information centres around Devon. It was quite an eye-opener to see that other towns’ marketing was far more advanced and sophisticated than our own.
‘This prompted me to explore the possibility of Okehampton developing and implementing a marketing strategy.’
So far, his ideas have received approval from the town council and the chamber of trade. He said he now wanted to get people in the town on board.
‘At the meeting I will present some initiatives – including the Okehampton pound! – which I believe, with the help and support of the community and businesses, could increase footfall and therefore economic viability for the town’s retailers, as well as providing management for certain events and sustainable promotion of the town for years to come.’
The new organisation would be a Community Interest Company (CIC), which would be able to apply for grants and other charitable funding to put ideas into practice.
‘We need your views and ideas,’ he added. ‘Okehampton is lucky to have funding bodies as well as people with the necessary expertise and skills to help with any strategy we come up with. We just need that motivation and commitment to make it happen.’
Presenting his ideas to the town council at a meeting before Christmas, Cllr Vachon suggested ordering £40,000 of Okehampton pounds to be printed on hologrammed paper by a company which prints banknotes.
‘We are suggesting using the Okehampton pound like a discount voucher but with a value in that it can be circulated,’ he said.
‘It would be given to a retailer in part-payment of whatever discount the retailer would like to give but then the note itself could be used by the retailer to spend on whatever they want so it would work like a real currency. The idea is to get more people to spend in the town centre shops.’
The idea has come out of a crisis meeting called to discuss the future of the Okehampton Chamber of Trade, which has been losing members.
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