Stockton’s Enterprise Arcade has won praise in a national report about how independent retail businesses have survived the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Against All Odds review, put together by a team led by high street expert Bill Grimsey, says that despite unprecedented financial challenges, independent businesses have prioritised supporting local communities and maintaining social connections.
It also calls for councils to balance their emphasis on regenerating town centres through infrastructure with prioritising people, partnerships and communities.
It cites Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Enterprise Arcade as a strong example of providing safe, affordable incubation and start-up space for independent businesses with appropriate help and support.
The report also says: “Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council prioritised sustaining and growing its local independent retailer, traders and personal services sector as a core objective of its high street transformation programme.
“The Council established its first enterprise arcade to provide a supportive environment for entrepreneurs and to reduce risk.”
Grimsey also highlights some of the success stories from the Enterprise Arcade involved in maintaining the emotional connection to their town centres.
Drake bookshop’s partnership to ensure young people in the care of the Council received a book over Christmas was cited, along with Wags and Whiskers Pet Boutique for offering a new range of products for pets to adapt during lockdown.
Councillor Nigel Cooke, Cabinet Member for Regeneration and Housing, said: “This report is yet another vote of confidence in our work to not only make our six towns fit for the future by taking back control but also in our support in the valuing of the independent retail and service sector.
“Town centres cannot be just about big brands, it’s the small details and the nurturing of talented businesses that makes all the difference.
“The Enterprise Arcade was a long-term vacant building in the heart of the town centre before we stepped in and brought it back into use. It’s a prime example of how we can create a unique experience for businesses with minimum risk and direct support.
“It’s great to see some of our small businesses being recognised in this report, some of whom started life in the Enterprise Arcade and have grown to secure a town centre premises with the help of our business support team.”
View the report here.