What is benchmarking, and how and why did we do it?
Benchmarking means collecting the same information in different places so that the places can be accurately compared. It helps identify in which particular ways a place is different or similar to other places like it.
Frome Town Council recommended that we use benchmarking as part of our town plan, as they found it so helpful. We used the organisation that they recommended (People and Places). It cost about £350. Members of the steering group and town councillors collected and submitted the information, and People and Places sent us a report comparing Bruton with small towns in the region (and elsewhere). In order for the process to work we used a standard set of questions.
What did we find?
The differences between Bruton and other small regional towns that particularly stood out were:
- Bruton had fewer pedestrians in its High Street;
- There is more parking pressure in Bruton than elsewhere;
- Much more of Bruton’s parking is on-street (66%). Elsewhere the average is 20%, with most of the parking in car parks.
- The proportion of short stay parking in Bruton, at 26%, is lower than elsewhere.
- Bruton has a high proportion of businesses that are new to the town (45% had been here less than five years. The proportion elsewhere was 33%).
- On average businesses in Bruton were doing better than those in other small regional towns, and they also had greater confidence about the future.
- Businesses saw the potential for tourist customers as a positive feature in Bruton. The saw fewer negative features than businesses elsewhere. Car parking was the only exception: 78% of Bruton businesses mentioned it as negative, the figure elsewhere being 57%.
- We carried out face-to-face interviews with 103 people using the High Street over several days. We found a far higher proportion of people visiting for leisure than other small regional towns did, and therefore a lower proportion visiting to shop.
- The visitors to the town centre were far more positive about Bruton than was the case elsewhere. 99% of them would recommend a visit to Bruton (the figure for other small towns in the region is 66%).
- The visitors rated the positive aspects of the town more highly than visitors did elsewhere. Customer service, cafes and restaurants, and pubs/bars/nightclubs particularly stood out.
- They also found less not to like: only 6% said that the retail offer was a negative feature of Bruton, whereas 48% did elsewhere. Only 2% said that the cafes and restaurants were a negative feature of Bruton as against 16% elsewhere.