11:38am Saturday 29th December 2012
By Stuart Laundy
A GROUP of traders are sharing in the success of an new project which aims to keep shop vacancy levels low in a County Durham market town.
The Barnard Castle shop share project was set up earlier this year to offer entrepreneurs the chance to see what is involved in running a retail unit and existing businesses the opportunity to test out new products and ways of attracting extra customers.
The scheme was developed by Barnard Castle Vision, working with the South Durham Enterprise Agency, and funded by Durham County Council.
Seven small enterprises are currently involved in the shop share, while an eighth, The Castle Cakery, has become the first to move on and set up in its own premises.
Victoria Clair, who set up The Castle Cakery, said: “Going into the shop share project made me realise there was a demand for the business.
“I originally started off at home, then went on to taking stalls at farmers' markets before moving into the shop share for three months, from April to July.”
She added: “While I was in the shop share, it really took off – business tripled. It was a good place to go into - much better than going straight into a shop on my own.”
Among those businesses currently taking advantage of the shop share scheme is Teesdale Glass Engravers, run by Lawrence and Joan Staley, from Mickleton.
Mrs Staley said: “We used to do craft fairs and shows, but this gives us the opportunity to have a retail presence.”
Other traders involved in the shop share project take their turn working in the unit and sell each other's products as well as taking inquiries.
Barnard Castle Vision development officer Annalisa Ward said: “This innovative project will help keep shop vacancy levels low and give businesses a chance of running a retail business."
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