How to revitalise Nottingham’s high streets? NTU fashion students have their say

NTU fashion students have had their say on how to save the high street NTU fashion students have had their say on how to save the high street
NTU fashion students have had their say on how to save the high street

Fashion students from Nottingham Trent University’s renowned School of Art & Design gathered on Wednesday afternoon to share their ideas about the retail brands the city centre should be attracting to lift its struggling high streets.

Among the presentations, designed to be as close to real-life business pitches as possible, were ideas on how to attract well-known clothing brands such as Cos and Uniqlo, as well as more independent, boutique fashion companies to Nottingham.

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The session, held at Bustler in Sneinton, was the culmination of a specialist ‘Design Sprint’ module for NTU fashion students, led by a team made up of local business leaders and those tasked with securing investment and growth in the city.

Commenting on the event, Justine Davidson, principal lecturer in Fashion Management & Fashion Business Analytics at the Nottingham School of Art & Design, said that the sessions revealed an “entrepreneurial mindset” in the students that the city should do more to foster.

Speaking to Nottingham World at the event, Davidson said: “Something like this that has an entrepreneurial mindset is absolutely key for today’s students when they graduate. That’s the culture we’re trying to build.

“They are really passionate about giving back to Nottingham and our university ethos is very much like that. As a university, we have a lot of students from the local area.

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“The students that come here, once they’re here they love Nottingham and they want to see it prosper. It’s really nice that they feel so passionate about it. That entrepreneurial mindset is very nice to see.”

Revitalise underperforming areas of Nottingham

The module has been designed to nurture and test students’ abilities to imagine ways to revitalise underperforming areas of Nottingham by pitching spaces to retail brands not represented in the city.

Teams of final-year students were briefed to consider all aspects of a retail unit’s pull for retailers, including its size, location and layout, and taking into account each brand’s requirements over aesthetics and ambience.

They then had to prepare a business pitch for their selected unit, without the use of slide presentations, with a particular retail brand in mind.

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Leading the module and the presentation session on Wednesday was John Morgan, director of Leonard Design Architects, a major international firm based in the city centre. 

Morgan attended the pitching sessions on Wednesday alongside Emma Smith from Invest in Nottingham, which seeks opportunities for inward investment into the city, and Ben Tebbutt, founder and director of major commercial real estate investor Box Property Consultants.

The students had some great ideas about how to breathe new life into the city The students had some great ideas about how to breathe new life into the city
The students had some great ideas about how to breathe new life into the city

Bang on trend

Tebbutt said that the event highlights the huge amount of talent at Nottingham’s universities, which the city must do more to retain in future if it is going to grow.

He said: “The quality of pitches and presentations we’ve seen today have been excellent and the brands that students have identified have been on trend, they’ve been excellent. 

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“What’s really interesting is how much focus the students have placed on the Broad Marsh still. The Broad Marsh area of Nottingham is critical to the city and most of the students have identified that part of the city as somewhere they want to be.”

“We have two fantastic universities in Nottingham, over 75,000 students. Student retention is so important for the city. These people are going to live, be educated in the city. It’s really important that we find a reason to keep them here.”

The organisers expressed their hopes that many of the students involved might go on to develop their ideas, and to consider setting up their own fashion brands in Nottingham.

"It's not just a student city"

Emma Smith, Marketing Intelligence and Strategy Development manager at Invest in Nottingham said: “It’s incredibly energising. I would be delighted if some of these projects ended up in front of the brands they’re pitching about. 

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“There’s a huge amount of energy and a huge amount of enthusiasm in this room. If we can take it to the next step that’s what we’re really keen on now. 

“What’s really important to us is that the students of Nottingham are more woven into society so they don’t see Nottingham as such a transient city, not just a student city.

“When we’re out there talking to investors and businesses they want to know what talent is here, and we want to be able to say that there’s a huge amount of talent here.”