Today Gift Shop Hub talks to The 4 Heatons Traders Association, or 4HTA for short. The purpose of the 4HTA is summed up in it’s mission statement:“To make the Heatons, a better place, to live, work and prosper”. Any business based in the SK4 post code area, which covers the villages of Heaton Mersey, Heaton Moor, Heaton Norris and Heaton Chapel can join the association for an annual fee.
Membership currently stands at approximately 70 businesses, who work together on community and business initiatives with a view to promoting the shop local message.
Tell us about your association’s early days ?
The association was started in 2009. It was seeded by Ben Poland, a consultant at RBS and Hazel Kimmet who worked for the Stockport Chamber of Commerce at the time. They invited local shop front businesses to a venue to discuss the possibility of setting up an association. It turns out that there was an appetite for such a group.
With some financial backing from Stockport Council the Association was constituted, and began holding regular monthly meetings. A website was created by Printing.com (now Nettl.com), one of the founder member businesses, to communicate with the general public in the area, and a private Members’ only area provided a forum for internal discussions.
Events that caught the eye…
While discussions went on (and continue today!) about our purpose and the initiatives we wanted to work on, one of the main projects that caught everyone’s attention was a Christmas event. This was followed a few months later by a Summer Festival. These two events became pivotal in bringing the community together and providing the 4HTA with some local publicity.
Picture from moormag.com
Who is your association aimed at?
Any business in the SK4 area is eligible to join the 4HTA. Our members include large high street brands, small independent shops and many home or office based workers, known internally as non-shop-fronters. While the 4HTA wasn’t set up as a networking group, the diversity of members does mean a lot of inter-business happens anyway within the group.
What makes your association stand out from the crowd?
We’re often held as an example of a successful business association by Stockport Council, and we’ve won a number of awards. We’re twice winners of the Stockport Business Awards, including the Special Recognition Award in 2016.
Our flagship event is the Heatons Summer Festival, which attracts around 9000 people each year despite being run by a handful of volunteers from within the group and associated groups. It’s the tenacity, passion and sheer determination of the dedicated volunteers in the group that makes us stand out from the crowd.
Who are your partners?
We work with many local community groups in the area, such as the Rotary Club of Stockport Lamplighters, Friends of Heaton Chapel Station, Friends of Heaton Moor Park, Sustainable Living in the Heatons to name but a few. We also liaise with various departments in Stockport Council. Our stakeholders are our members, as well as the local community.
What do you consider to be the main challenges facing small businesses at the moment?
The onslaught of out-of-town-shopping centres, supermarkets, and online shopping is an ever growing challenge for any and all local businesses. We firmly believe that this challenge can be faced only by small businesses working together to provide the vital missing ingredient – community spirit.
The shop local message cannot be forced onto people. Customers need to want to shop local, and be made to feel good about it. If they actively see local businesses putting something back into their local community, then they are far more willing to buy into the shop-local ethos.
What tips do you have for small business owners/artists?
It’s very easy for small business owners to feel isolated. But it’s important to remember, you’re not alone. There are many others in the same boat. By seeking out and joining your local traders association or business support group, you will begin to see new possibilities for your own business that would otherwise remain hidden from view.
What are your plans for the future?
We want the association to grow, and encompass more of the businesses in our target area. We’re looking at ways to ringfence our events activities, which have dominated the group for the last few years, so that we can start tackling issues that affect local traders – empty shops, parking, crime, marketing, etc. We’ve still got a long way to go!
Businesses in the SK4 post code area can join online at www.fourheatons.co.uk