CuparNow – 2021 Annual Report
2021 was some year. We began with continued lockdowns and ongoing restrictions that impacted on different businesses in many different ways – some working full-tilt to meet the demands of customers, others juggling changing guidance that saw them open, close and re-open … and then those whose forced closure continued on from the previous year.
We finished the year with the news that Cupar had topped the charts as the most searched for town in Scotland for those seeking a rural relocation. Our second annual report covers all of 2021 and the first quarter of 2022, bringing us back in line with our April-March calendar of operation …
CuparNow is the UK and Scotland’s only digital improvement district. Destination Digital, the company delivering CuparNow, were appointed by the Scottish Government as consultants to research and report findings on the Digital Towns Programme 2017-18. More than 20 towns across Scotland fed into that programme – including Cupar – all asking how their towns could make the best use of digital to support multiple audiences: residents and visitors, businesses, community groups, culture & tourism bodies, education & training providers, environmental projects as well as health & social care support.
Based on the feedback from all, we proposed a hub & spoke model where all audiences would be supported through managed, integrated digital and communication and services. The crunch question was over funding as all traditional streams were short term – most for a 12 months project and no sustainable longevity. Having worked in destination marketing – with towns and cities across the UK – we recommended the ‘improvement district’ mechanism for funding whereby, if businesses backed the initiative with a majority of those voting (by number and scale), it would create a five year term to deliver all elements requested with an annual levy to be paid by all businesses and organisations whose properties have a non-domestic rateable value.
The Scottish Government accepted our recommendations and asked for a demonstration town to prove the concept: Cupar was selected for two key reasons: firstly, the town’s Business Association had been strong advocates for digital support and secondly, it is a typical market town with many similarities to other destinations of a similar size across Scotland. The project won seed corn funding to run a 16-month demonstration phase. A Steering Group of local business owners and managers – together with elected and officer representation from the local authority – oversaw and agreed to the Business Plan that was put to the ballot.
The ballot was successful in creating the first Digital Improvement District, CuparNow, and we are now entering our third year of operation.
As 2021 progressed, restrictions eased. Life did not return to ‘normal’, but the town and its businesses were more open than at any time since before March 2020.
Much of the work delivered through the year was reported in our quarterly updates. You can click on any of the images below to read more …
Combined, our reports have had well over 1,000 clicks to read to date. In addition to our quarterly reports, we share regular B2B e-shot updates with those who are subscribed to receive them. We have more than 230 of the town’s businesses on our database and 65% of recipients are ‘highly engaged’ with the content we share. If you run a business or organisation in the town are are not subscribed but would like to receive our updates, please email us to let us know via this link.
All the work we deliver is overseen by the CuparNow steering group – made up of business owners and managers in the town together with representatives from Bell Baxter High School and Fife Council (one elected members and one officer).
Alison Strachan – who chaired the group since inception – stood down in 2021. The Group thanked her for her unstinting support and work since 2018. You can read more on the steering group here.
Andrew Thomson of Southbridge Garage took over as Chair. Andrew has written an open letter – updated ongoing – that is shared with all new businesses arriving in town as well as with any business raising questions over the project and its support.
Supporting the letter is an eight-page document that details CuparNow’s key achievements together with a breakdown on ‘how your levy is spent‘ – from the daily management of digital channels, the delivery of free public-realm Wi-Fi and the project’s data capture & management to the monitoring, analytics and reporting as well as the managed community fund. We are happy to share the same here: simply click on the following to read …
By business, for business …
First and foremost, CuparNow exists to support the town’s businesses. Without their support, we would not be able to deliver any of the services provided. Our categorised business listings carry the details of the 421 businesses and organisations whose annual levy payments enable our delivery. We have four main categories – each splitting into sub-categories to help visitors to the site find more. For some businesses, our listings are their only promoted digital presence.
We have also introduced QR codes that are being shared on materials to help drive traffic to the same. In a world where all are increasingly familiar with the concept of scanning codes to access information, we know this is a route that will only help to support our audiences and benefit the businesses and organisations that are linked:
Our audiences have continued to grow across the board. At each month’s Steering Group meeting we provide an update on each channel’s numbers. Our combined digital audience is now 59,234. That is more than double the audience recorded in our first annual report published in January 2021.
Our following across the town and wider catchment continues to grow. On Facebook alone (below), we know that more than 31% of the town’s population follows our page. We also attract followers from across villages, towns and cities all within a 30-minute drive-time of Cupar:
Throughout the last year – when allowed to do so – we have continued our weekly ambassador visits.
Day by day, we are collating, gathering, creating and sharing content across the channels we manage. The Meta channels (Facebook & Instagram) are used most due to their scale and flexibility to promote content. We share content every single day – and below is an example of Facebook posts published on an average weekday:
We work hard to ensure businesses and organisations are represented evenly. On our rotation of coverage, every business should feature at least once every 6-7 weeks – so at least 7-8 times in the year: that coverage may be on our Blog, through our social media channels or via our e-shots. Openly, we say that those who engage the most with us will receive the best level of support and return on their investment – the messaging being of mutual benefit in enhancing audience growth, interaction and reach.
In the one-day snapshot (above), we can demonstrate the level and type of content being researched, created, planned and shared, conscious of the need to provide not only geographical representation across the town but also across sectors and interests:
- 0800 – promoting a levy-paying healthcare business on Ladywynd
- 1143 – advertising a job opportunity from the same business in response to their request
- 1200 – highlighting jewellery and piercing services available from a levy-paying business on Bonnygate
- 1718 – making our audience aware of the community support given by a levy-paying supermarket in town
- 1800 – sharing a Blog feature we’d published in response to a community group’s request promoting sport & leisure
- 2001 – raising awareness of online scams in support of a levy-paying legal firm on Crossgate
These six posts on one Monday in February saw 438 followers engage with the content direct (with post clicks, likes, comments or shares) helping to generate a reach of more than 9,500 … all as support on just one channel in one 24 hour period.
All of our content is anchored to our Blog where we share business profiles, breaking news, events and more.
Below is the Blog audience’s geographical breakdown: the vast majority of readers are close to home and within a drive-time of Cupar. Through our followers’ advocacy, we have built and engage with an audience that is not only across the UK but also spreads across every time zone around the world.
At the very outset of the project, we have been mindful of the need to engage with and support multi-generational audiences.
A number of the social channels do not report data on audiences that are Under 18, so the following does not show a true representation, but – using the data we can research and report – we are very happy to be able to show that our delivery engages with audiences across every age group … and with significant numbers in each. Any business – whatever sector they are in – is able to use our channels to reach and engage with these age groups ongoing, whether for sales of products and services or for recruitment.
In 2021, as part of our ‘by business, for business‘ delivery, we agreed a new partnership with ABCD – the Association of Businesses in Cupar & Distict. All levy-paying businesses are now members of ABCD.
The association – formed in 2004 – is led by James Hair, who became Chair at their AGM last July. In media coverage at the time, James described the collaboration as “transformational” saying: “The Association is the main point of contact between the town’s business community and Fife Council on matters relating to planning, economic development and more.” He added: “CuparNow’s support – especially through their ability to manage integrated communication – adds significant influence that will help us to collaborate and campaign to the benefit of the town.”
ABCD is involved in statutory consultations that affect the town and its businesses – not just in the town centre but across the whole of Cupar, including the business park and trading estate as well as the new retail park. James says: “Historically, the Association’s members have been town centre based. We are working with many organisations to showcase Cupar as a 21st century market town. The town’s appeal extends far beyond the centre and rightly includes each and every business across Cupar and, increasingly, in its rural catchment.”
The membership fees are being covered by CuparNow’s contingency. The move will provide better support and representation for businesses across the town. Any business who does not wish to be a member of ABCD under this new arrangement can simply request not to be included.
The first initiatives CuparNow has helped to facilitate have been surveys from ABCD seeking feedback from the town’s businesses – the most recent on the proposed Cupar North development. Other initiatives being developed include:
- Town Guide Map – our plans are to print and distribute 20,000 guide maps across the town; they will be designed with trackable QR codes so we can share more information direct with users, allowing us to evaluate their usage ongoing. Businesses and organisations in the town will be able to sponsor a limited number of advertising spaces on the map to assist with print costs. If this is of interest to your business, please email us via this link.
- Poster Sites – similarly, we are exploring more poster sites across the town where we can share QR codes that will enable people to access information on eating out, shopping as well as the town’s huge array of services. Some have been created in 2021. More will follow this year.
If you have a site or sites where we can display posters – whether for your company’s staff to see or for the public’s benefit, please let us know by emailing us.
As a result of feedback from the town’s businesses, we have also launched a new feature on our Blog – enabling all to post their job, work experience and volunteering opportunities. Simply click on the image below to load yours. We will then amplify across our channels …
We continue to provide free Wi-Fi in public realm areas of the town centre. Those using the service – and many thousands have done so – are able to subscribe to receive monthly e-shots where we share news, promotions and events from the town. We are able to see demographic data of those using the service and that is helping us to plan extensions to the network to support other parts of the town.
If you are reading this and would like to subscribe to such updates, please click on the following and complete the details. Once submitted, you will be added.
All of these elements are designed first and foremost for the support of our levy-payers … businesses and organisations across the town who contribute to CuparNow through an annual levy. The vast majority pay £100.00 a year. In 2021, more than 96% of businesses paid their levy. We have ‘bad debt’ built into our contingency, but those who have not paid or who refuse to pay impact negatively on our ability to support the town. As explained in our Chair’s open leteter, we remain open to meet with any business or organisation who has questions over CuparNow’s services and delivery.
Hub & Spoke …
Business comes first. As a result of the support we receive from the town’s business community, CuparNow is designed to deliver so much more for the benefit of multiple audiences across the town and our catchment. This is our ‘hub & spoke’ approach, borne out of the Digital Towns Programme 2017-18 that led to the creation of CuparNow.
We have covered business support – our levy payers. The following takes each of the remaining spokes and updates on what has been delivered through our second year of operation.
Cupar has some 86 community groups and organisations. In the last year, we have engaged with many and helped to promote all through our Community Directory. We have also created a trackable QR code that links with the Directory, enabling all to share with a wider audience.
Below are just some of the community groups we have helped to support through 2021 …
Through much of 2021, we worked with a forum of organisations – steered by Cupar Development Trust – to showcase the town in a weekend of activities in September … Cupar’s Celebration Weekend 2021. Our part was to help in the communication and promotion of the weekend. We created and updated our Blog (more than 40 times) with information from the organisations taking part. Leaflets – including a town map – were printed for delivery to businesses across the town centre and businesses kindly distributed them to customers in the final countdown …
On the weekend itself, we helped to capture and share video clips via Facebook …
We were also delighted to help publicise the Cupar Concert that you can view through the orchestra’s own YouTube recording …
The same weekend coincided with the Castlehill Community Association’s Great Toy Giveaway: we helped to make people aware of the event and more than 350 toys were handed out to children and families from across Cupar. We are also very pleased to have set up a partnership with the town’s Camera Club …
Members of Cupar Camera Club shot hundreds of images to help create a unique archive of the weekend. It is great news that the collaborative forum of orgnaisations have continued to work together and will soon announce plans for a Cupar Celebration Weekend 2022. When that is launched, we will share a selection of the Camera Club’s 2021 images for the public to nominate one image that best captures the ‘celebration’.
The weekend following the celebration last September saw Cupar’s inaugural Gathering of Societies with more than 20 community groups taking part.
Based on the success of the 2021 event, the organisers – Rotary Club of Cupar and the Cupar & District Community Council – are planning a repeat this summer. CuparNow helped in encouraging community groups to get involved and in the promotion of the event itself – both before and on the day. We visited at the outset and created a short video before the gathering started. That video can be viewed via our Facebook page.
As we approached 2022, we started plans for the town to become part of Scotland’s Year of Stories. Before Christmas, we launched Cupar’s Year of Stories with a digital version of the town’s heritage trail, working with the help and support of the town’s Museum & Heritage Centre … just click on the following to read more.
This project is expanding as we’d hoped with submissions from individuals and groups to tell us their Cupar stories – past, present and future. All are able to submit stories via our online form …
As a direct result of our engagement and interaction with community groups, we were asked if CuparNow could help to create a community calendar for the town where all events might feature – not only to help in the promotion of the events but also to allow those planning activities to avoid unnecessary clashes.
We have always featured events on our Blog and through our other channels: now we have an online form that enables all to load their event details. Once checked, they will ‘go live’ on our Blog’s calendar and we will share on other channels to help promote the same.
In addition to the day to day support we can provide to make our audiences aware of community activities, we also manage a small Community Fund to give direct financial support to groups and organisations. We have been able to make donations to Duffus Tennis Club, Cupar & District Pipe Band and Toby’s Magical Journey to help the charity provide support for the Scoot Aboot Toon group that was set up in the autumn. You can read more here.
On the strength of our engagement with community groups in the last year, we are sponsoring a stall at each of the Fife Farmers’ Markets in Cupar throughout 2022.
Beyond this, if you run a community group and need support, please get in touch. We can’t promise to help, but we will do all we can to do so – just use this link to email us.
Culture & Tourism
We know tourists are not back to their pre-lockdown numbers, but more and more people are enjoying staycation breaks closer to home, and our channels are attracting engagement from people right across Fife and the east of Scotland.
Thousands of people visited Cupar on the Celebration Weekend of the 17-19 September 2021 and we registered levels of digital engagement higher than at any time since we launched CuparNow. Through September alone, our Facebook page had more than 20,000 people engaging with the content we were creating – liking, commenting and sharing. Ongoing, we will be working with community groups, businesses and more to help support upcoming events in the town in 2022 – all helping to attract and engage with visitors.
Through the last year, we worked in partnership with Cupar Development Trust – with some funding support from the Regional Food Fund – to make Cupar the centre of a series of new Food & Drink Trails. Each of the trails starts and finishes in Cupar, ensuring we are helping to drive visitor numbers and interaction to the benefit of the town.
Just click on the map image below to visit the site: it includes a filtering system to enable visitors to choose the type of food & drink offering they want – and each business’ own page then features contact information and digital links to enable the user to find more.
If you run a food or drink business in or around Cupar and would like more information, just click on this link to complete our Food & Drink Trail Questionnaire and we will be back in touch.
Ongoing, we are now working with other partners and stakeholders to make the most of this project – including looking at how it can be amplified in the countdown to The Open this summer. A printed guide is planned that will be shared through partners and stakeholders across the catchment. Below is a work-in-progress of the planned guide all with trackable QR codes to help disseminate more information on each of the Cupar-to-Cupar trails:
As highlighted in the business section, we started work on a Town Map at the end of 2021. Our plan will be to print 20,000 guides – designed with trackable QR codes so we can share more information direct with visitors. We will also liaise with tourism associations and other sector stakeholders to help with distribution.
Education & Training
We help to share content from all of the town’s education and training providers – from pre-school provision to further education as well as additional support. This included a profile in our CuparNow KnowHow series – focusing on the skills and talents of those working in the town. Our profile featured Neil Baillie of Kip McGrath, the tutoring company who relocated from their offices in Cupar’s Granary Centre to their new home on St Catherine Street …
In 2021, we have worked closely with Bell Baxter High School and are delighted they are now represented on CuparNow’s Steering Group. Through the summer and autumn, we helped them with their S3/4 class on an exciting Wellbeing Garden Project. You can discover more by watching the short YouTube video we recorded and shared …
Going forward, we will be working with them to help the school engage with businesses over pupil recruitment, apprenticeships and opportunities for volunteering in the town.
We have continued to offer advice and support to those businesses and organisations who ask for it on digital communication and best use of social media. If you run a business or organisation in town and require help and advice on your digital needs, please send us an email via this link with your questions or outline plans and we will be back in touch to set up a 1-2-1 meeting.
Wherever we can, we support environmental initiatives in the town: this has covered engagement with numerous partners and stakeholders.
The core of CuparNow is to promote Cupar’s businesses – first and foremost to a local audience. Much is being written about ‘20 minute neighbourhoods‘. The very nature of our work is to push the #ThinkLocal message – to share with our growing audience that, whatever they need, they will find it in Cupar: food & drink, shopping, services – it is all available.
The original thinking behind ‘20 minute neighbourhoods‘ was for that 20 minutes to be on foot or by bike. That expanded that to cover travel via public transport.
Reality – especially in such a rural part of Scotland – means that we have adopted the 20 minutes to be a driving distance (as shown below).
Necessity means that – for Cupar – the town serves a rural catchment that mirrors that of Bell Baxter High School, including close to 60 villages across North East Fife … extending beyond the boundary shown above.
In the town, we’ve built on the work undertaken in 2020 (that installed Interpretive signs showcasing the town’s history and heritage), creating posters that help visitors make the most of the signage on a one and a half mile walk around Cupar – to see the town’s historic and living environments.
Our work is helping to promote Cupar as a sustainable community: we ran a ‘Sustainability Month‘ in 2021 and featured the projects being delivered by Sustainable Cupar. We shared sustainable news from businesses in the town – including this feature on sustainable wines available at Luvians on Bonnygate. We also published content helping to promote more sustainable travel …
We also provide coverage that recognises the work of those helping to improve the town’s environment: perhaps the most obvious to all – residents and visitors – is the small army of volunteers who combine to deliver Cupar in Bloom. Pat Mitchell and April Sheldrick featured on one of our podcast conversations in 2021 …
Health & Social Care
Our delivery has a social benefit – enabling residents and visitors to find information on the town’s offering and encouraging all to share the same. Throughout the last 18 months, many thousands have turned to our channels to find key information.
The following are just a few examples of the support we have provided …
In addition to these, we maintained the Food & Drink Directory that launched in lockdown – ensuring an up-to-date listing of businesses managing click & collect as well as deliveries was maintained throughout. This remains the most-read feature on our Blog with close to 4,000 page views.
We also shared updates from local wellbeing charities and causes:
- Helping to raise awareness of Lucky Ewe and their work that actively supports people to achieve new skills, gain physical and mental health benefits, and rebuild confidence – to help progress towards employment.
- Promoting an online petition to help encourage support for the redevelopment of the skatepark and pumptrack at Duffus Park.
We continue to work with Dementia Friendly Fife, Fife Voluntary Action and Fife Health & Social Care Partnership to publish information that helps to support the most vulnerable – such as sharing news on Fife’s Dementia Strategy Review.
Increasingly – reflecting CuparNow’s growing audience across the town’s district – we are asked to share content from organisations in that wider rural area … and we are happy to do so, especially when it comes to promoting wellbeing.
Once example is the feature shared at the end of 2021 for a project in Falkland …
At the outset of CuparNow, our plan was to create a project that would deliver economic sustainability – first and foremost to the levy-paying businesses and organisations who enable our delivery and secondly – and as a direct result of the businesses’ support – to all those ‘spokes’ on our digital hub.
As we continue to highlight, by far and away our most important task is to support businesses: they are the lifeblood of the town – driving investment, employment and training opportunities.
The last 12 months has seen the opening of the long-awaited Retail Park – the largest commercial investment in Cupar for some years. The Blog features we have shared on the park has been among the most read of the year – showing our audience’s appetite for the new arrivals. The article feature in the analytics report below shows more than 2,500 unique page views …
Combined, the retail park stores and outlets have created more than 100 new jobs. That has brought challenges – we know some businesses who have lost staff to the new arrivals – but also opportunities for greater levels of employment, training and development.
Of the 421 levy-paying businesses and organisations contributing to CuparNow, more than 96% have paid their 2021/22 annual levy … and we are very grateful of their support. A very small minority who refuse to contribute see no value in what we deliver for the town and our community. Going forward, we will continue to work and support all those who pay their annual levies. We have an operating agreement with Fife Council who will continue to issue our annual levies and collect monies owed.
On receipt of payment we send a letter of thanks – co-signed by our Steering Group Chair and the Chair of ABCD – together with a window sticker to help demonstrate to customers their business’ support for the town. Please keep and eye out and show your support for those who enable all that we deliver.
CuparNow is making a positive impact. Our daily managed, integrated digital and social media communication and support services are helping to put the town on the map as never before. As highlighted, the town was listed as the most searched relocation destination for those seeking rural living in Scotland …
And on the back of this news, we are very happy to report that, in the latest data on Vacant Units and Vacant Floor Space (published by Experian GOAD and included in Fife Council’s Local Economic Profiles 2020-21) Cupar is performing well when measured for percentages of ‘vacant
units’ and ‘vacant floor space’. Against Fife’s major retail destinations, Cupar is the only town that has seen a fall in this key economic metric in the last two years – all others highlighted recording increases in vacancies across the same time period.
Cupar Now has been running since its demonstration phase in 2018-19. A critical part of the project’s remit has been to show how managed, integrated digital communication and support services “enable new, strategic collaboration” and “improve digital participation and skills“. Our services have been delivered uninterrupted – right through the lockdowns and restrictions experienced throughout 2020-21. The positive impact is clear: collectively, the strategic collaborations and improved participation are creating and sustaining a vibrant town centre that has placed Cupar as the most sought-after location for rural living in Scotland, and the second most searched destination in the UK+.
Based on feedback from the 1st annual report, the Group decided to remove a set number of businesses who it was felt could not be supported by the project ongoing – namely those listed under ‘Land’, ‘Yard’ or ‘Store’ on our database. That reduced the number of levy-paying businesses as well as the forecast annual income.
As restrictions continued into Q1 of 2021 – in agreement with the project’s Steering Group – we took the decision to delay the issuing of levy bills for the second year in a row. Instead of invoices being sent out in April, they were issued in August: as highlighted in 2021, one of the benefits of our unique Digital Improvement District model (delivered by a private company) is that we have resources out with the levy to support service continuity. We used those resources to ensure CuparNow continued in its day-to-day support with an uninterrupted service.
This year, now that almost all Covid-19 related restrictions on trade have been removed, the levy bills will be issued in line with the original project plan – from April 2022 to cover the 12 months until March 2023.
Our Year 2 financial breakdown (below) shows the sums apportioned to the various service areas delivered. These are shown as ‘annual spend’ to cover April 2021 until March 2022, albeit we were able to underwrite the project’s delivery from April 2021 until the first payments could be drawn down in September.
We can also report that £3,773.47 of the 2020/21 levy remains unpaid – just under 5% of the projected annual income. A total of £5,698.38 of the 2021/22 levy remains to be paid (8.3%) albeit we expect this sum to be reduced as non-payment continues to be pursued. For clarity: CuparNow is delivered by Destination Digital Ltd overseen by a steering group. Destination Digital Ltd has an operating agreement with Fife Council who invoice the Digital Improvement District annual levies and are responsible for collection of payments as well as chasing of non-payment. If at any time a business has a question regarding the levy, payment or the services provided by CuparNow, please use the contact information in the ‘need more’ section at the foot of this page.
The following statement gives a breakdown of the monies received for the 2021/22 period – and shows how they have been allocated/spent in accordance with the project’s business plan – all in support of the 421 levy-paying businesses. More information on the service breakdown and delivery can be found on the Steering Group Chair’s open letter.
Followers, readers, subscribers, viewers and listeners …
This unique and award-winning project would be nothing without our audiences – so thank you! Since the outset – at ground zero with no audience at all – it is your engagement that’s liking, commenting, and sharing with friends, family and colleagues at home and abroad that has enabled CuparNow’s audience to become the fastest growing and largest digital audience (by population) of any town or city in Scotland.
Today, we are managing …
- E-shot Databases:
- 320+ businesses and organisation: if you are not subscribed to our B2B database and would like to ensure you receive our regular updates, please contact us with your details via this link.
- 1,400+ subscribers who have signed-up to receiving our regular updates. These are either people who have opted in to receive more information having used our free public-realm Wi-Fi service in the town or those who have registered online: if you’d like to be added, just follow this link to subscribe.
- Our Podcast – with a dozen episodes recorded in 2021
As a snapshot from the end of 2021 …
Any business or organisation in and around Cupar can contact us at any time through a variety of channels – our social media channels, by email or phone. Just call 01334 870858, leave your name, nature of your enquiry and a number where we can reach you and we will call you back. We can arrange face to face (where possible), meetings via Zoom or just a chat to see how we can help.
If you have any thoughts or ideas on how we might improve our service, please let us know. And if you’d like your name to be put forward to join our Steering Group, please drop us an email explaining who you are, the business/organisation you own/represent and why you’d like to be on the group.
Finally, if you run a business and want to be keep up to date on all we are delivering, please make sure you are following us on the pages and channels most relevant to you.
If you have any questions, simply click here to email us, and we’ll be back in touch as soon as possible.
Thanks for reading.