The valuable contribution of associations and the professionalism of commerce for its development was one of the conclusions highlighted by the Director of Commerce at Barcelona City Council, Mercè Garcia, at the meeting ‘Commerce and Territory: district promotion plans’. Organised by the Department of Commerce, the session was used to present experiences developed with and by the city’s districts on interculturality initiatives, the work of associations and unique commercial promotion.
The conclusions outlined by Mercè Garcia also stressed the importance of tools for promotion and customer loyalty, such as the Viba card and the vouchers which have started being used in the neighbourhoods of La Marina with the participation of Barcelona Activa, the Sants-Montjuïc district office, retailers and companies.
The meeting focused on three experiences in different neighbourhoods and shopping hubs in the city involving the districts and within the strategic framework developed by the Department of Commerce. The session included development assistants and municipal specialists involved in the experiences, who gave first-hand accounts.
Interculturality in commerce was the first of the experiences described, with initiatives in the districts of Sants-Montjuïc and Sant Andreu (and the district of Nou Barris with a project on diversity in commerce – ‘Viu el comerç divers’) using the interculturality capsules project. The experience was explained by assistants from the Maragall shopping hub, Mariana Juárez, and from the Poble-sec retailers’ association, Cristina Velasco, as well as the intercultural commerce expert Begoña Ruiz de Infante and the commerce specialist for the district of Sant Andreu, Helena Serrasolsas.
The project pursues mutual knowledge between local communities and those of other origins, including the Chinese community and the Asian community in general. Local commerce is introduced and communities from other cultures receive information on services provided by associations. As the presentation pointed out, this initiative is about responding to an opportunity instead of a threat.
Work done by intercultural mediators, who speak languages such as Chinese or Pakistani, with local retailers’ associations and their assistants have enabled progress to be made thanks to contact between communities. ‘Knowledge, cooperation and co-organisation’, underlined Ruiz de Infante as the keys to the experience. Many visits are made to shops to provide them with the range of services offered by retailers’ associations, for instance, while at the same time encouraging participation in the associations. These are long-term integrating projects.
Les Corts, with ‘Les Corts Comerç 08028’, and Gràcia, with ‘Coll Amunt’, are two districts that presented their experiences of the creation of new retailers’ associations, with the participation of Lali Atés from the company Sigma, Joan Bares, a specialist in commerce from the District of Gràcia, and Flora Torrents, a specialist in commerce from the District of Les Corts.
The project ‘Les Corts Comerç 08028’ brings together commerce in the neighbourhoods of Sant Ramon and La Maternitat. Before it was set up there were two inactive associations, yet this initiative now represents 80 businesses. ‘Coll Amunt’, in the El Coll neighbourhood in Gràcia, is an association that resulted from another inactive one. It now represents 42 establishments out of a total of 92. In both cases, support from the City Council, training from Barcelona Activa and the interest of retailers in boosting economic activity in the two neighbourhoods have all been essential. Their success is also thanks to experienced professionals who helped them in their early stages. In addition, they are examples of two very diverse areas in their own districts. Worth noting is the way commerce gets involved in events organised in the neighbourhoods and its ties with local entities.
Unique action to promote neighbourhood commerce
The REC citizen currency system is an example of a technological, economic and social initiative to strengthen local commerce. The system has been rolled out in the neighbourhoods in the Besòs area. As explained by Martí Olivella, coordinator of the Novact association, its benefits include increased turnover, the promotion of commerce with an app, improved customer loyalty, ease of spending, innovation and no commission or fees. The currency is presently being used by 175 establishments and 500 customers.
Another initiative to promote commerce and customer loyalty is the project ‘Treballo al barri, compro al barri’ [‘I work in the neighbourhood, I shop in the neighbourhood’], implemented in the neighbourhoods of La Marina del Port and La Marina del Prat Vermell, With participation from Barcelona Activa, the district of Sants-Montjuïc and local retailers, a thousand people who work in the area, seven companies and sixty participating shops, a voucher system was launched with exclusive offers and discounts in establishments being extended to people who work in the neighbourhoods. Meritxell Ribalta, a specialist in economic development with the Department of Development at Barcelona Activa, explained that the initiative introduces people to shops and at the same time encourages people working in the neighbourhoods to do their shopping there.