North East Connected

Bid-ding to invest in Darlington

DARLINGTON businesses are being urged to back their BID company to secure investment and boost visitor numbers.

In the past five years, Distinct Darlington has invested £1.5m in the town centre, attracted record numbers of visitors to fashion and food events and introduced a raft of initiatives designed to promote the town’s economy.

And now it is calling on businesses to renew its mandate, when voting opens on 9 February, so it can build on its success.

Figures released by Distinct Darlington reveal that its inaugural Fashion Week, last April, boosted footfall by almost eight per cent on the previous year, with thousands flocking to see the town’s clothes retailers showcase their wares on an outdoor catwalk.

“One Skinnergate trader reported the second busiest Saturday in two years, achieving 50 per cent of their weekly target on Saturday 23 April alone,” said Alex Hirst manager of Distinct Darlington.

“And we know, from the success of our annual Distinctly Delicious Festival of Food – which has been running for three years – if we are given the chance, we can build on those figures.”

The Festival of Food weekend, which has become a major fixture for food producers and manufacturers across the region, led to a 6.4 per cent year on year increase in footfall in 2016 with many town centre businesses reporting an upturn in trade during the two-day event.

Thanks to group purchasing arrangements, the BID also saved businesses £95,000 on utilities and telecoms last year alone and has also 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.

Among the traders calling for the re-election of Distinct Darlington is Dave Johnson, owner of Darlington-based businesses, Hole in the Wall and Avalon.

He said; “A few years ago, I found Distinct Darlington to be a completely alien aspect of my daily business and couldn’t see how it could possibly help me.

“I’ve been proven very wrong indeed. It has helped me in three town centre businesses, increasing footfall, revenue and exposure.

“Local businesses must vote for the BID as it is absolutely crucial that it continues in Darlington. In short, it works, so get behind it.”

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

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