Struggling Friargate businesses offered lifeline by local businessman

Posted on - 12th February, 2020 - 7:00am | Author - | Posted in - Business, People, Preston City Centre, Preston News, UCLan, University campus
Richard Gill
Richard is hoping his offer can help keep Friargate businesses open

Friargate businesses impacted by UCLan Masterplan roadworks have been offered a lifeline by a local businessman.


Shops and services on the usually bustling street have seen business drop off since it was closed last November – and with work due to continue until August, traders have voiced their concerns about how they will survive the continuing loss of income.

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Hearing about the traders’ struggles, local businessman Richard Gill decided to step in and offer help.

Through his company, Go Virtual UK, Richard helps businesses attract more customers into their properties. He’s now offering this service to Friargate traders for free.

Read more: Confusion over new phase of UCLan Masterplan


Richard said: “At Go Virtual UK we create 360 Street View tours of business interiors that are uploaded to Google Maps for the world to see – one billion users.

“As a result of seeing a Street View tour via phone or computer, people are encouraged to visit a business. It’s a method of marketing that draws people in, and attendance tends to rise by almost a third, permanently.

“In early February I went door-to-door on Friargate and spoke to every business I could. I offered each of them a free Street View tour that runs from the road and into their business interior.

“Of course I market this to help my own business to develop, but at the same time my core value has always been to prevent businesses from closing entirely. Sometimes that means skipping the fees and offering a lifeline to those that need it, and I do tend to offer the service for free once per year to the right candidate.”

Richard, who grew up in Chorley, has lived in Preston on and off throughout his life. He started Go Virtual UK in 2018 and says since then he has encouraged millions of pounds-worth of trade opportunities. He’s been running his own venture in between stints working for Google.

Richard Gill on a Google Maps assignment, with the Trekker camera on his back
Richard on a Google Maps assignment, with the Trekker camera on his back

He said: “Google hires roughly 20 people every year to create the official Street View images on behalf of Google Maps over an eight month period. Six of them are considered to be seniors, and I am one of those six.

“The chances are, if you have ever used Google Maps to see what a street looks like before you go there, I was the person who created that 360 image using Google’s Street View car or Trekker camera.

“I’ve been on five tours with Google, and in that time I have driven almost every road in Lancashire and Manchester, twice, and trekked through almost every single town and city across seven countries.”

Richard is yet to hear back from the Friargate businesses he approached.

He said: “The majority of traders were very enthusiastic about the service when I talked to them. They have my business card, and I am awaiting their response. Hopefully I can help prevent any businesses from closing near the roadworks.”

Read more: This is exactly how the new Adelphi Square road layout is due to work

Do you shop or eat in any business in Friargate? What do you think of Richard’s offer? Let us know in the comments.

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