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BID builds business in Darlington

ByCharley Williams

Jan 15, 2017

A ‘Little’ initiative to boost trade in Darlington town centre has netted businesses more than £300k.

The town’s Business Improvement District company, Distinct Darlington, launched its Little Books of Offers to encourage consumers into the town centre with a variety of discounts and offer vouchers for restaurants, shops and businesses.

And the company, which is hoping to be voted back in for a further five years in March, has revealed the scheme has boosted takings by a massive £307,643.

The Little Book of Offers is one of many successful initiatives introduced by Distinct Darlington, to promote the town’s economy and make it a more engaging destination for shoppers, residents and visitors alike.

Since it was formed five years ago, the company has attracted thousands of people to the town centre through its annual Distinctly Delicious Festivals of Food, fashion shows and a Classic Car Show.

Thanks to group purchasing arrangements, the BID saved businesses £95,000 on utilities last year alone and has helped Darlington become the second fastest growing economy in the UK.

It has also established a strong working relationship with Darlington Borough Council which invested £13,800 in parking offers to support town centre business activities over the Christmas period at Distinct Darlington’s request.

On 9 February, businesses will be asked to vote for the continuation of the BID and manager Alex Hirst said a ‘yes’ vote will give the company the chance to build on its success.

“Along with the financial benefits we’ve brought to businesses and the town centre, we have introduced a number of measures to make Darlington a more welcoming place to visit,” she said.

“Our Darlington Rangers have trained more than 40 town centre staff in dementia awareness and have become a familiar sight to shoppers, who often comment on how helpful and friendly they are.

“We’ve worked with the council to restrict street fundraisers – or chuggers – to three days a week and each summer we improve the appearance of the town with 175 seasonal hanging baskets.

“But that is just the start and we very much hope people will get behind us and enable us to build on all this for a further five-year term.”

Among the projects lined up for the future are festivals and events and various rewards and incentives schemes to persuade shoppers to visit Darlington.

Boosting the evening economy and running schemes such as the highly successful Alive After Five promotion delivered by Newcastle’s BID, and a Restaurant Week are also high on the agenda.

The ballot for the continuation of the BID opens on 9 Feb and runs until 9 March, with the outcome revealed on 10 March.