A state-of-the-art review of Business Improvement Districts in the UK: Setting the agenda for policy, practice, and research

This 2019 state-of-the-art review, commissioned by The BID Foundation and conducted by the Institute of Place Management, reports findings from an in-depth study into Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in the UK. It investigates their development and evolution over time; trends in BID ballot results; the issue of ‘BID failure’; academic research in this area; and future challenges and policy recommendations. It also presents a BID lifecycle and new typology of BIDs.

Date added 3 February 2021
Last updated 3 February 2021

This state-of-the-art review of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) is based on research conducted by the IPM into the evolution, categorisation, and potential future challenges of BIDs in a UK context. A historical overview of BIDs is presented, from their inception in 2004 to address some of the problems associated with the more voluntary nature of existing place management initiatives, to their growth over time to a total of 303 as of the date of study (end of 2018), further categorising these BIDs by term, BID type, and ballot results. Political, economic and industry drivers of BID growth over the years are identified.

Based on an extensive analysis of quantitative data and secondary resources, five different stages in the ‘lifecycle’ of a BID are also identified, from development to eventual cessation, including: Stage 1: Interest; Stage 2: Feasibility; Stage 3: Ballot; Stage 4: Delivery; and Stage 5: Renewal or Disband. Furthermore, the report introduces a new typology of BIDs, classifying them into four different types, first based on ‘degree of business inclusivity’, and second based on 'spread of geographical focus’, as detailed below:

A typology of BIDs

Type A - The most common type of BID. They are inclusive and have a tightly focused geographical area. This includes all the town centre BIDs and industrial BIDs.

Type B - All business types included but they have a wide geographical focus. They are most likely to focus on place marketing activities.

Type C - Some business types excluded and focus on a tight geographical area. They tend to be more sector focused than Type A BIDs, seeking to help a particular type of business.

Type D - Some business types excluded and wide geographical focus, with a focus on tourism businesses. Activities tend to be more marketing focused, as opposed to place maintenance or making.

Finally, several key challenges BIDs face are highlighted, including the relationship between BIDs and Government, the governance of BIDs, and how BIDs can adapt to changes in high streets and town centres, since many have a retail focus. Based on these identified issues, directions for policy, practice, and research in the area of BIDs are recommended:

The future of BIDs – some recommendations

  • Policy agenda- ensure that BIDs as a form of place management are governed in transparent, representative, efficient and impactful ways; that they are recognised as key actors in economic policy; and that BIDs are not funded unless they have a clear plan of action.
  • Practice agenda- it is important for BIDs to get involved in evidenced-based responses to government; that they act in proactive ways; improve baseline agreements; and adhere to minimum standards across the sector.
  • Research agenda- more research is required to understand what BIDs do and their impact; how they are formed and managed; who BID levy payers are; and why some BIDs perform better than others.

To read a shortened executive summary version of the report, please see here.