Bedford takes on the Goliath of shopping centres to win customers

Poster at bus stop in MK promoting Bedford free parking
Poster at bus stop in MK promoting Bedford free parking

Free parking in Bedford is being advertised in Milton Keynes to bring shoppers back home.

The Bedford Business Improvement District (BID), which represents traders, put up posters around Milton Keynes shopping centre telling people about free parking and other virtues of the riverside county town, as part of an advertising campaign.

Christina Rowe, BID director, said: “People are now waking up the fact that convenient parking near CentreMK is very, very expensive every day of the week. Here in Bedford people can park for free all day on Sundays in council car parks and at the privately owned under-ground car park at the Harpur Centre.

“They can pop and park for two hours free at council car parks on Saturday which is much more convenient that taking the A421 and then paying a premium at Milton Keynes. We have many of the same retailers, we have many more independent shops and we have lots of super cafes and restaurants.

“The MK versus small towns is presented as a Goliath v David tale by the media. If Bedford is David then we are a small town with lots more to offer this summer.”

BedfordBID operates under the brand of Love Bedford to call to consumers to shop local.

The website and its associated social media postings are the most widely read across the town centre. Some 500 businesses pay a levy, with the largest landlords and property owners such as the council, Bedford College and the Harpur Trust together giant stores paying huge sums which subsidise the independents who benefit from the BID, many of the smallest pay nothing at all but can join in all the events and promotions.

Christina added: “Targeting Milton Keynes is important to us because of the many thousands of new homes building around the Bedford bypass and A421 who need to turn to town to see what we have to offer.”

Mayor of Bedford Dave Hodgson said: “Our array of free parking offers in our town centre car parks is one of many reasons why Bedford is an attractive, convenient place to enjoy shopping and leisure. Since we first introduced our free parking deal over four years ago, footfall has increased every year as awareness has grown of the quality and value of the shopping experience in Bedford town centre.

“Bedford has a fantastic range of town centre businesses including a high proportion of quality independent outlets. With the expanded range of free parking offers available through the week and in the evenings, there is every reason to visit Bedford and enjoy all it has to offer.”