Holywell’s groundbreaking ‘Digital Town’ project highlighted in Parliament visit
A group of business owners from Holywell made a visit to the Houses of Parliament this week, to meet MPs from across the UK and share their experiences of leading digital innovation on their high street to help revive the town’s fortunes.
Over the past two years, three of Holywell’s four banks have closed, causing a drop in the number of shoppers in town, less cash being spent in local shops, and fewer banking services available for small business owners in the town.
The issue is something that is affecting high streets all over the UK. Up to 30,000* ATMs across the UK are slated for closure over the next five years, along with 948 bank branches closing or closed since the start of last year.
Whilst the bank closures were initially bad news for Holywell’s community of small businesses, the rural North Wales town has become a national beacon of best practice thanks to the ‘Holywell Digital Town’ project, using technology to help reverse their fortunes.
The project, in partnership with payments technology company Square and local MP David Hanson, has equipped more than 50 local businesses with Square Readers so that they can accept card payments, many for the first time ever. 91% of businesses in the town now accept card payments.
The project also awarded three business owners each a £1,000 ‘Digital Skills’ bursary to improve digital education in the region.
The town is also working on other technology solutions that it feels will help bring greater prosperity to the town, including the planned installation of an electric car charging point and free wifi.
The initiative is the first of its kind in the UK and a group of Holywell business owners and local council representatives attended an event at the Palace of Westminster today to share the best practice with other MPs from across the UK, many of whom pledged to drive forward similar initiatives in their own constituencies.
Holywell Mayor Joe Johnson said: “We’ve always tried to be forward-thinking and positive here in Holywell, but with the closure of the banks, 2017 was a difficult year for the business community. The ‘Holywell Digital Town’ project has really lifted the spirits of the town and is helping small businesses to make more sales again.
“We’re delighted to be here in Westminster to share this example with other MPs and hope this model is something that can be applied to high streets across the UK.”
81% of shoppers say they’d be more likely to shop locally if they knew a business took card payments and 64% say they’d choose a card-only business over one that just accepted cash, showing how crucial it is that independent retailers have the right tools to stay competitive and maximise sales.
David Hanson – MP for Delyn commented: “Embracing new technologies is key to the growth of local communities. Holywell town centre has a vibrant independent business community but since the closure of several High Street banks, there’s fewer cash points around and less cash coming into the town.
The town has been very forward-thinking and progressive in their adoption of new technologies and I am delighted to be able to share this example with my colleagues here in Westminster so they can learn from this example and apply similar initiatives in their own constituencies.”
Square was set up in San Francisco in 2009 by co-founder and CEO of Twitter Jack Dorsey and launched in the UK in March of this year.
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