Ten independent businesses in Cookstown are amongst the first in the country to receive specialist training in Digital High Street Skills during August 2014.
The programme is being delivered by sector skills council People 1st, in partnership with the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM) with funding support from the Department for Employment and Learning (DEL). It is specifically designed to help small businesses boost trade and increase profits by developing their knowledge of the internet, social media and on-line trading.
Cookstown was selected to pilot the Digital High Street Skills Training Programme with a plan to launch the programme throughout Northern Ireland in September 2014.
Councillor Wilbert Buchanan, chairman of Cookstown District Council said: “We are delighted that Cookstown has been chosen as one of the first towns in Northern Ireland to roll out the new Digital High Street Skills training programme. In June 2014, ATCM revealed that customers for every £8 customers spend, £1 is spent online. This innovative programme will undoubtedly help Cookstown’s independent trader’s position themselves for the future. Our 10 small businesses will have the opportunity to avail of specialist skills and support to maximise the use of digital technology in their business which I trust will result in boosting sales through a stronger online presence”.
A recent report by Lloyds Banking Group found that 36% of small and medium-sized businesses have no website and 20% have no online presence. The Digital High Street Skills programme aims to rectify the problem by providing training in digital marketing, website development and social media to help small and medium-sized businesses to develop their online presence and grow their business through online marketing.
Roisin McKee, Director of Northern Ireland People 1st stated, “The objective of the programme is to fill the ‘Digital Divide’ between small and large businesses, and to demonstrate that online marketing and trading will play a crucial role in delivering improved economic results and social experiences on the high streets of the future. It will help small businesses to establish or make the most of their online retail presence, and find out about digital marketing tactics that will really help boost their bottom line. The programme will show how multi-channel retailing is relevant to every size of business, and why small businesses need to take full advantage of the online opportunities that can help them to build and grow their business and ensure their long-term sustainability.”
Sammy Gamble from Skills Solutions in DEL said: “The retail sector is one of DEL’s priority sectors for the Northern Ireland economy, hence the commitment to fund this new and innovative pilot programme.
“This builds on our existing skills training provision for the retail sector and will add the dimension of digital technology to increase online activities, allowing businesses to perform competitively in the marketplace.”
Martin Blackwell, chief executive of the ATCM, added: “Just a few years ago many people were predicting that the internet would lead to the demise of the high street as we know it, yet now the opposite is proving to be true. Businesses which are engaging digitally with their customers are performing better than their offline competition, and in a trend that is great for retail up and down the country, we are seeing businesses use their online presence to attract consumers to their physical outlets on the high street.”