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Council hatches plan to support Essex indies

Indie retailers in Essex are being offered £20,000 worth of support to help bring shoppers back onto its high streets, after Braintree council secured a government grant to launch a Shop Local marketing campaign.

The campaign will feature promo­tional events to tempt visitors to Braintree, Witham and Halstead, as well as training and networking events to support retailers.

Braintree council’s district promo­tions manager Chris Trim said: “We hope this project will escalate and we’ll be back for more funding, but the only way it can work is if retailers tell us what they need and get involved to help one another.”

Interested fashion indies should submit ideas to Braintree Chamber of Commerce and the council about how the money could be best spent.

Initial plans include introducing more regular local markets and street entertainers to draw shoppers to the area, plus customer-service workshops and business-networking events for local retailers.

Trim added: “It is hard for councils to help individual businesses because it is seen as unfair. In market towns it is often the speciality independent shops that draw the most visitors. If two or three similar stores work together to form a group, even if they may normally be competitors, we can help them.”

Paul Sowerby, owner of Braintree menswear indie Blu-Orange, said: “I’m not sure how far £20,000 will go, but I’d definitely get involved with ideas and training. I think if they ran a continental market a bit more often it would help bring people to the town and bring in more culture. It would be good if they could use some of the money to promote the shops to some of the affluent villages nearby.”

A second £20,000 grant will be used to offer indies what Trim calls the “background benefits”, which could include the continued publicity of small business rates relief, and the potential introduction of subsidised car parking on weekday afternoons.

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