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North Tyneside High Street Entrepreneurs Get Business Boost

Ambitious high street retail businesses in North Tyneside are getting advice on how to attract more customers and improve their profitability with a series of expert masterclasses.

North East England Chamber of Commerce published a report last year on how town centres could attract more customers and improve their profitability. These retail sessions, organised in conjunction with Newcastle Building Society, have been designed to deliver the support retailers said they needed in that study. Shop owners are learning how to maximise the impact of their shop window displays, increase merchandising knowledge, marketing and digital skills.

Stuart Fern, Newcastle Building Society said: “As the North East’s largest building society we appreciate the critical role that vibrant high streets play in supporting a healthy local community and economy. The high street programme in partnership with the Chamber links local businesses with industry experts in a series of free express clinics to provide useful tips on maximising their high street businesses.”

Rachel Anderson, Chamber assistant director of policy said: “Our town centre research report showed there was a definite need to support our retailers in improving their skills so they could exploit their stock better.

“Some of the highest numbers of startups are in the retail and leisure sectors and yet, for historical reasons they get very little support and so it’s no surprise there are high failure rates, we are trying to address that. “These workshops have been devised to really encourage them to take a fresh look at their business by learning from experts in a variety of fields. The feedback to date has been really positive.”

Among those who have taken part in the first workshop, run by John Lewis’ merchandising team, were Royal Quays IT business Canny Clever, run by experienced computer consultant Ken Mosley.

He said: “I’ve substantial experience in IT but very little knowledge of retailing. With having a shop front in this retail centre I really needed to understand how best to present my business. The window display workshop was very impressive and I’ve already implemented many of the suggestions I took away, in terms of making everything clean and simple.”

A fellow entrepreneur Jill Snailham who, with her partner, owns Ruby & Frank and Flamingo & Finch in Tynemouth, also learnt from the workshop.

Jill said: “My top tips from the retailing session were that I needed to seriously declutter my window. Just because you’ve got an item doesn’t mean it needs to go in the window! My brother was a senior retail manager for a number of years and his advice was reiterated. You should try and use three items in window displays rather than two or six. Also ideally your window dummies should look like three friends on a night out, so that’s how my display now looks and its definitely working for me.”

Whitley Bay fashion retailer Lisa Mitchell owns Escape fashion boutique. She said: “I have found very little help for long-standing businesses such as ours in the past, things tended to be aimed at start-ups so these workshops are great.

“We learnt a huge amount from John Lewis but also from each other, in terms of what worked and what to avoid. I am not only changing the style of my window display but also my internal layout. It has made me look at the shop with fresh eyes and I’m looking forward to the next sessions.”

The workshops to support the North Tyneside retailers will continue in January through to March.

This is a pilot project and we will learn from it then look to help more retailers in town centres across the North East. This is the business community helping their fellow businesses and hopefully the long term sustainability of or town centres.

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