With up to 74% of high street retailers not having an active social media presence, Polly Barnfield OBE, a member of the government’s High Street Task Force has urged Chesterfield’s shops and market traders to adopt social media and use it to deliver both improved footfall and sales on demand.

Speaking at the sell-out 2019 Chesterfield Investment Summit Ms Barnfield, who has been named as one of the top 100 most influential women in technology, believes events and localised social media activity could be the key to revitalising and growing Chesterfield’s high street.

She said: “Social media is a resource that any business can use, and retailers should use this opportunity to engage with and understand their customers.

“Social media is fundamentally changing the rules of doing business. It’s not a question of a business being online or offline anymore – they must be both. There has been a huge shift in human behaviour over the last 15 years driven by social media. For the first time ever, people now spend more time on their mobile phone than watching TV.”

However, she urged retailers not to just to focus on selling themselves on social media. “Engagement with the community around you is key. You can’t just sell your own product on social media if you want to be successful,” urged Ms Barnfield.

She advised: “Retailers should post on social media every day and talk to their audience not just about what is happening in their business but around them.”

Highlighting the power of social media on retail at the Investment Summit, it was revealed that ALTERIS, owner of the town’s Vicar Lane Shopping Centre has successfully used the online platform Maybe* over the last six months to increase footfall by 36%.

ALTERIS bought Vicar Lane Shopping Centre out of administration earlier this year promising to create ‘a new town centre retail model for the post e-commerce world’.

Ms Barnfield was one of several speakers presenting at the annual Investment Summit which was held at Chesterfield’s Casa Hotel.

Addressing future investment and development opportunities in Chesterfield and North East Derbyshire, the event was organised by Derbyshire Economic Partnership, Destination Chesterfield and Marketing Derby.

Speaking at the event Huw Bowen, Chief Executive of Chesterfield Borough Council, also revealed that the town had welcomed 330 business start-ups in the last 12 months.

He said: “For Chesterfield to grow and survive it needs to be a place where people feel they can do business and do it successfully. This means ensuring we make the most of our competitive advantages in order to attract investment as well as optimise our current development opportunities including HS2, Chesterfield Waterside, Northern Gateway and Peak Resort. Our competitive advantages underpin our recently published Growth Strategy.”

Peter Swallow, Chair of Destination Chesterfield, highlighted the town’s successful public-private sector partnership approach to investment, commenting: “Chesterfield is a town of opportunity and we have the partners and collaboration in place to drive forward our ambitions to not only deliver our current development plans but also attract further investment and continue to grow.”

Organised by Destination Chesterfield, Derbyshire Economic Partnership and Marketing Derby and part funded by the European Regional Development Fund, the annual Investment Summit was held at Casa Hotel.

More than 200 people attended the 2019 Chesterfield Annual Summit. In addition to Polly Barnfield OBE and Huw Bowen, delegates also heard from Mark Warrilow, Skills Stakeholder Manager – Phase 2 (Skills Employment and Education) at HS2 Ltd, Peter Storey, Head of Markham Vale at Derbyshire Country Council, Mark Jones, Head of Technical at Kier Living, Cllr Tony King, Cabinet Member for Economic Development and Regeneration, Derbyshire County Council and David Higham, Commercial Director at Learning Unlimited, part of the Chesterfield College Group.