King's Academy 2010 with Coronation Street's 'Rosie Webster' (Helen Flanagan).
The Chocs Away van
Enterprise Arcade offers ideal start for new firms
12:44pm Friday 16th September 2011 in Stockton News
CHRISTMAS could come early for new retailers who are being offered shops rent free in a prime town centre location.
The former Burton's store in Stockton High Street - revived as the Enterprise Arcade - will become a base for five entrepreneurs who can test trade for six months to see whether they have a flair for business.
The arcade is aimed to help rejuvenate the heart of the town, and three of the five firms who recently finished a starter spell there have decided to go it alone.
Hobbies R Uz, a family business selling remote controlled models and crafts, and Embellish, which sells jewellery and hair accessories, are now trading in the Shambles, while Chocs Away, which offers handmade confectionery, has opened in Silver Street.
Tracy Hart, of Chocs Away, said: "Being in the Enterprise Arcade was a fantastic experience for me and really prepared me for opening up my own shop.
"I have learned so much in the past six months and I am now really focused on the important things in making my business work."
Stockton was named recently as one of the worst towns in the country for its high volume of empty shops, according to a report.
Information from the The Local Data Company revealed the town, and Hartlepool, had 27 per cent of vacant premises in their town centres.
Earlier this year, Stockton Borough Council unveiled a £20m five-year masterplan to improve the town and, hopefully, attract new businesses.
Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Borough Council's cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said the scheme gave fledgling firms the opportunity to jump-start their retailing dream with relatively low risk.
"It not only offers six months' shop space but a full support package is also included. They will just need to buy their own stock and take out their own insurance, " he added.
Entries are also being taken until Tuesday for Stockton's first business awards. The categories include best national chain, independent retailer, newcomer, eatery and market trader.
Stockton Council's first Town Centre Business Awards
From left: Top row, Martin Shipley (Who-ray), Brian Burr (Who-ray), Tom Butchart (Sound It Out Records), Dan Hirst (Debenhams) Bottom row, Dinah Kapouas (Kaminaki), Jenny Spencer (Debenhams), Sue O'Hagan (So Jammy) and Tracy Hart (Chocs Away)
TOWN centre businesses across Stockton are celebrating after being crowned winners of Stockton Council’s first Town Centre Business Awards.
The winners of the awards, which recognise trading excellence among the borough’s town centre businesses, all clinched a £250 prize at a ceremony at Stockton Town Hall.
Nearly 400 members of the public voted for their Town Centre Business of the Year. Sound It Out Records, on Yarm Street in Stockton, received the most votes to take the title.
The independent record shop gained a whole host of supportive comments from their customers.
They included: “Tom Butchart’s great service, enthusiasm, perseverance, knowledge of his products and empathy for his customers is second to none!” and: “A truly amazing independent store - their product knowledge is almost encyclopaedic and the customer service is truly first class”.
Cllr Cook said: “It was particularly exciting to see so many strong entries from the independent sector.
“ These businesses are really helping our borough’s town centres stand out from the crowd and offer something different to other town centres throughout the North-east.”
The judges’ deliberations resulted in the following businesses being awarded five highly-deserved awards:
Eatery of the Year - Kaminaki Greek Taverna , Church Road, in Stockton.
Independent Retailer of the Year - Who-Ray, an independent gift and memorabilia shop on Silver Street, in Stockton.
Market Trader of the Year - So Jammy, a jam, chutney, mustard and salad dressing retailer which regularly trades from Stockton’s Farmers’ Markets.
National Chain of the Year - Debenhams in Wellington Square, Stockton.
Graham Soult’s view on what makes a successful independent retailer
Big-name stores are always an attraction in our town centres – but it’s the independent shops that help to keep our region’s high streets fresh and distinctive.
Fortunately, the North East has no shortage of interesting and successful independent retailers. In Morpeth, for example, the family-owned Rutherfords department store has been at the heart of the town since 1846, while in Middlesbrough, the designer fashion emporium Psyche is a rather more recent arrival. Both, however, attract shoppers from far and wide by virtue of their individuality and creativity.
Similarly, head to other parts of the region – whether it’s Barnard Castle, Yarm High Street or Whitley Bay’s Park View – and you’ll come across entire streets populated with delightful independent boutiques, food shops and cafés.
So, against a backdrop of challenging economic conditions and a competitive retail environment, what exactly are the ingredients that mark out a successful independent retailer?
In Stockton, I’ve recently been asking that very question, as part of the judging panel for the borough’s Town Centre Business Awards. As a passionate advocate for thriving high streets, I’m all for celebrating great retailing. My involvement was also an opportunity to find out more about Stockton’s best independent businesses – among them the gift and memorabilia shop Who-ray!, winner of the Independent Retailer of the Year award; and Chocs Away, a traditional sweet and chocolate shop, which we crowned Newcomer of the Year.
Both businesses are located in Silver Street, just off the main thoroughfare of Stockton High Street, but far enough away for them to have to work hard – and creatively – to make an impact. So, how do they manage it?
One of the attributes that marks out both Who-ray! and Chocs Away is the passion and drive of their owners. Proud of their product and loving what they do, it’s an enthusiasm that gives the shops real personality, and helps to create an enjoyable and rich customer experience.
Eye-catching window displays are another strength, complemented by attractive and good-quality external signage. Whether it’s Chocs Away’s ‘candy barrow’ or Who-ray’s Clangers, both shop windows are designed to amuse, engage and catch the eye.
Once inside the stores, there is colour, individuality and really inventive ways of showcasing the products. In Chocs Away, owner Tracy Hart creates a magical world with her Victorian sweet seller’s outfit and 1920s glass-topped counter; in Who-ray!, a door in the back wall is disguised to look like a TARDIS, turning a functional part of the shop into an eye-catching backdrop.
To make sure customers know that they’re there, effective marketing is also key. Both stores have engaging websites, while Who-ray! cross-promotes its high-street shop through its online and Facebook stores. Its regular events are also important, drawing shoppers into Stockton, and increasing the footfall to neighbouring retailers too.
Tracy Hart as Oompa Loompa, Chocs Away! Shop
Stockton high street branded "beyond redemption" fights back
A North-East town which has a high proportion of empty shops is fighting back with the help of the local council. Dan Howlett reports.
IN January last year, Stockton town centre was branded “beyond redemption” by borough councillor Bob Gibson, who said it was “five or ten years too late” to turn around the high street’s fortunes.
One successful scheme has been the Enterprise Arcade, which allows up to five retailers to trade for free over six months to find out if they have a viable business idea.
Tracy Hart started her vintage sweet shop in the Enterprise Arcade in February.
Now she has moved out into her own town centre property.
“The Enterprise Arcade was great. There is no way I could have got to where I am with Chocs Away without it,” she said. “They give you six months to see if your business is tenable and offer all kinds of help and support in the meantime.
“All you have to provide is the stock and the insurance – everything else is taken care of.
“It’s good for businesses and it’s good for the town centre.
I am out there on my own now with a shop just off Silver Street, which is doing extremely well.”
Councillor Mike Smith, Stockton Borough Council’s cabinet member for regeneration and transport, said the authority welcomes yesterday’s report by Mary Portas.
“Many of the ideas she puts forward are things we have developed to showcase the potential of Stockton high street – from our ambitious £20m plans to regenerate Stockton town centre to celebrating and promoting enterprise and the town’s popular 700 year old market,” he said.
“Like Mary, we believe high streets should be lively, dynamic places which is why our plans include investment in heritage buildings and the town’s cultural quarter, developing the evening economy including Arc and The Globe Theatre, and creating dedicated spaces for our exciting programme of ongoing festivals and events.
“We are also improving access for shoppers with the reintroduction of on-street parking and support for a strategy of flexible parking tariffs and car parking promotions to support the town’s economic development.
“This year, 45 businesses have set up, expanded or relocated within Stockton town centre and we are keen to promote and support town centre businesses with initiatives such as the Enterprise Arcade offering budding retailers the chance to test trade over six months.