Launch of app that champions the cause of the independents

David Laycock.
David Laycock.
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A new app championing independent businesses and the creative scene has been launched in Leeds.

Radius, an app which works off Google maps, tells people what is going on around them within ten minutes’ walking distance and the independent businesses that they would otherwise not be aware of.

The app has been launched by Leeds Ventures, an independent organisation set up by David and Sarah Laycock in 2013 that manages special projects to enhance visitor experience in the city.

Mr Laycock, who is development director at Leeds Ventures, told The Yorkshire Post: “One of the main drivers behind this was, I used to be the centre director at Trinity Leeds. Leeds was quite clearly a shopping destination but I was conscious at the time that Leeds didn’t have, before, a reputation for having independent businesses.

“When I looked outside Trinity I saw actually there’s a real rich variety that wasn’t being connected, supported and promoted. What the app does is pull that community together.”

Mr Laycock said that Radius was a good way of promoting independent businesses, which he said had a “pivotal” role to play in the city. He said that while big businesses provided the building blocks for a city, it was the independent firms that provided a difference with their character.

Given Leeds’ reputation as a digital and creative industry hub, Mr Laycock said that it made sense to have an app like Radius.

He said: “It makes sense as the largest employment base in digital and creative industries outside London, for Leeds to launch a new app that really celebrates the points of difference in the city.

“Leeds is a vibrant place to live, work, visit and do business and our vision is about providing a framework and relevant platforms that support and promote creative, cultural and independent businesses and organisations by enhancing the visitor experience by connecting people, places and events in the city in new and innovative ways.”

Radius has been developed by Leeds-based designer David Simmonds who said: “Visitors to a city and locals alike can often bypass the smaller independent businesses in favour of the more established and recognised high street retailers. Independents are facing challenging times and can often be off the beaten track and easily missed.

“We identified a gap in provision and saw a real need for a web-based app like Radius that gives the user a choice of where to eat, shop and spend time.”

Mr Simmonds added that it was important for the app to not only be free and immediate but also easy to use. He also said that he was looking forward to further developing the app to enhance user experience.

Leeds Ventures also runs Leeds Welcome, a city-wide project that champions digital and physical platforms to welcome and inform visitors and residents in the city.

It comprises a website for planning visits to the city, the Radius app to discover Leeds on the go, and the Leeds City Ambassador volunteer scheme.

The volunteer scheme, which is developed in partnership with Leeds City College and supported by Leeds City Council, seeks to build a community of volunteers to support visitors and promote events across the city.

There is also Independent Leeds, a community of independent businesses that creates a collective voice for the city with all the businesses registered on there getting their details pulled through on to the Radius app.

Though Mr Laycock said that even those that hadn’t paid £40 to be listed on Independent Leeds would still get their basic details on Radius. He added: “I would say in terms of the core theme it is about supporting independent businesses, that’s the bit that doesn’t get the promotion because they haven’t got the huge marketing budgets.”

Veteran of retail industry

David Laycock has more than 30 years of experience in the retail sector. He was centre director for Trinity Leeds between 2011 and 2013.

His work with Leeds Retail Association in 2011-13 was to represent its members as a collective voice in the city, out of this came the ideas for Independent Leeds, Made in Leeds and the ambassador welcome initiative.