How can Technology Support <br>Economic Growth for Local Businesses?

Bottrop Challenge Brief

Full description: We look for Technological Solutions to Support Economic Growth for Businesses in the City Center – Incentivize Local Community & Grow!

More and more people are shopping and doing business online. This puts pressure on local retail and business. At the same time, Bottrop is situated between the large shopping centers – Centro Oberhausen and the City of Essen. Due to the increasing mobility of people, local businesses and retail shops close, which leads to a high vacancy level in the downtown area.

The city center is not attractive specifically for young people since the services currently offered there are daily needs, not relevant experiences or entertainment.

Key questions:

  • How to attract more people to buy, eat and use services locally and keep the city center vivid and attractive?
  • How to learn more about the users of the city center and offer them targeted services and retail offers?”

Current State: The City of Bottrop is located in the metropolitan Ruhr Area, which is the largest urban area in Germany and the third largest in the European Union. Bottrop is one of the 11 cities within Ruhr and it’s strategically located in the vicinity of other cities of the region (Oberhausen, Essen, Dorsten…). Currently, Bottrop struggles to bring enough sustainable businesses to the city center. There are about 40% chain stores and 60% owner-operated shops of a diverse range of products (food, drugstores and clothes). There is a growing number of health- and beauty-related services such as hairdresser, cosmetics, opticians, hearing aids, pharmacies as well other uses i.e. community rooms (Community rooms in Bottrop are former shops which have been converted by the city to use as a place to get in touch with citizens and families by providing certain programs. Similar to a community center). There are also many medical practices.

There are two large redevelopment projects: a former department store (about 8.000 square meters) and a shopping mall of 10.000 square meters). The department store has been redeveloped as a multi-use building with a hotel in the 3rd floor and a fitness studio in the 2nd floor. There are plans to integrate a food court and a clothing store in the rest of the building. The shopping mall has been sold three times in the past 10 years and the investors struggle to implement their vision and bring profit. Both complexes struggle to attract new businesses. Altogether, the rate of occupancy stands at about 50%. Most stores close either because of lack of business perspective or there are no successors for the business.

In 2010 the university opened in Bottrop and at the same time, a more vibrant restaurant and bar scene developed in the city. There is no theater or commercial cinema, but there is a theater program and a community cinema in the cultural center run by the City of Bottrop. There are several other places running cultural activities and shows – Kulurkirche, LokSchuppen, Atelier 9 or the Haus Jünger. There is a Club Night twice a year where bands play in different clubs and bars. Moreover, there are 5 large leisure destinations – Movie Park (3rd biggest leisure park in Germany), Indoor Sky diving, Indoor Skiing, Schloss Beck (more regional leisure park for smaller kids) and Erlebniswelt Grusellabyrinth. These destinations run under the label Fun City (funcity-bottrop.de). There is also a project running LOUISE where we try to combine city logistics and online shopping.


Involved Stakeholders

Inside the municipality, the most relevant departments are the Department of Economic Development and the Digital Office.
Other departments may be involved as well depending on the need:

  • Communication department
  • Planning office
  • Department of environmental issues and green
  • Department for integrated urban development,
  • Social affairs department,
  • Cultural office,
  • Department of youth and education

Other partners include: the shop owners association, local banks and trade associations, service providers in the city center, sports clubs.

Desired outcome: In a perfect world, the city is like in the old times with no vacancies, an attractive mix of stores, an attractive surrounding where people like to spend time and like to communicate with each other. Today there is a good offer for the things necessary but not the extra special things to do window-shopping. There also needs to be more leisure-related offers (sport or play) for kids and young people to come to the city center. The outcome is perfect if residents stay longer in the city and spend more money in the local shops and restaurants.

Things to think about:

  • Technology can incentivize people to choose certain shops or try out new things. How can technological solutions be used to help Bottrop attract new audiences to the city center? What would that require of the city representatives (what resources are needed)? Think about the city as an active partner of the local businesses.
  • Data can help understand the behavior of the residents / customers better. Do you have business analysis technology that can both collect and analyze the data about the city center behavior?
  • The local business owners are rarely competitors – maybe they can do something together that will expose people to their offer? What could be the technological solution that makes their group offer relevant?
  • The local shops and services may need to work on their digital channels, marketing skills and offer that will be available to potential audiences. Do you have the technology that can support their growth in both physical and digital worlds?

New Ways to Ensure Economic Growth:

  • Sharing economy or the “platform economy” (digital or physical)
  • Local business and retail promotion online
  • Specialization in a distinct space to build local competence (e.g. hub for tourism, hub for smart cities/ automotive etc.)
  • Development of the new verticals in the city to attract new population (e.g. healthy diets, local brewing, sustainable fashion)
  • Supporting SMEs in different local economy programs (tax breaks, support services, accelerators etc.)

How Can Urban Economy Look like in the Future?

  • Local as a trend (awareness)
  • Data & personalization will be the basis for city economy development
  • Collaboration of different stakeholders – private and public in a single project
  • Creating strong local brands and specializations
  • Urban culture will be shaped by local communities and brands – shift towards communities’ development.
  • The city authorities’ role will be to build platforms (online and offline) for the local businesses to grow.