SUNDERLAND’S independent retailers are the key to securing a vibrant future for the city centre, according to experts.

Save The High Street, a national organisation which works across the UK to create strategies to help city and town centres thrive, has been brought in by Sunderland’s BID to help drive its plans.

And, according to Sarah Bassett of Save The High Street, it is the city’s independent scene which is the key to weathering the storm caused by online shopping.

“Sunderland really is unique,” said Sarah.

“I have never been to a city with such a strong, independent business community. It is really refreshing.

“One of the challenges we often face is that independent businesses don’t realise the value of working together, but that’s absolutely not the case in Sunderland.”

Save the High Street is working with the BID to look at establishing an independent district in the city and has already met with a number of key businesses.

The organisation, which has carried out a range of initiatives in place as diverse as the London borough of Richmond to Kegworth, near Castle Donnington, is looking at marketing initiatives and ideas to give Sunderland a point of difference.

Save The High Street will initially be working on a three-month project, giving free marketing advice and support to retailers.

“We are already really excited about what we’ve seen in Sunderland,” said Sarah.

“These plans, plus the bid for a share of the Future High Streets fund, could make such a difference.

“Our plan is to showcase what is unique about Sunderland; that it has a personality all of its own, which is unique in the north.

“And what is key to all of this is people agreeing – and wanting – to work together.”

Save The High Street launched in 2016 with a manifesto outlining its vision to secure the future of high streets up and down the country.

Now SaveTheHighStreet.org has its own in-house team, a national High Street Advisory Board – which includes more than 250 independent businesses and more than 50 relevant industry experts – dozens of strategic partners across public and private sector and a fast-growing network of Local Champions across the UK.

Sharon Appleby, Head of Business Operations at Sunderland BID, said that working with Save The High Street can only be good for the city.

“Save The High Street is working closely with us to provide support to help build a strong independent sector in the city centre,” she said.

“They have already met with a number of businesses and had a really positive response and will be visiting on a regular basis to help develop individual marketing strategies and an independent strategy.

“They have done great work in other places across the UK and we are sure they will do the same here, working with the BID and the city council.”