Ghent circulation plan good for economy
Mostly positive evolution
While the first evaluation was criticized for not studying the impact on retail, this second evaluation goes into more detail. The conclusion of the report is positive.
There are 20 % more starters in retail in 2018 than in 2017. Moreover, 7% fewer companies went bankrupt. Generally speaking, growth is stronger than the Flemish average. When looking at passing customer traffic, there is a shift. The Veldstraat gets fewer visitors, the Brabantdam more.
But the report doesn’t only bring good news. Specialty shops with clients from outside the city are not doing so well. There is a perception that Ghent is not easy to reach by car, which influences shoppers’ behavior. On the other hand, a shift to online buying could also have an influence.
Self-employed entrepreneur federation Unizo’s Province director Jos Vermeiren has some remarks about the report. He agrees something has to be done to change the perception of Ghent being a city that can’t be reached by car.
Vermeiren does, however, disagree with the conclusion that the strong economic performance is due to the circulation plan. He sees the growth in new businesses as an effect of the strong economy over the last few years. Moreover, the number of bankruptcies is historically low in the Province and the whole of Flanders.
Offering customer experience
To attract more shoppers, Ghent needs to aim for better customer experience. On that point, both Vermeiren and circulation plan architect and Ghent Mobility Alderman Philip Watteeuw agree.
“If you have an excellent offer online, why come to the city”, says Watteeuw. “With the circulation plan, we have tried to make people enjoy the city more. I think we now need to put our historic environment to better use.”
Watteeuw says some areas are now much more pleasant to walk around. He wants to do the same with other areas. In the Wondelgemstraat and Bevrijdingslaan, for example, he wants to improve the experience by adding more plants or street furniture.
“Often, streets with a lot of traffic are not very cosy. The city council has a strategy of improving the liveability there.”