North East small businesses are encouraging regional consumers to spend their pounds locally this weekend as part of Small Business Saturday.
Regional retailers, producers and service providers are participating in the national campaign which, inspired by its American counterpart, aims to gain visibility for small businesses.
Promotions, special events and activities are planned across the region for Saturday December 6, co-ordinated as part of the not-for-profit campaign, which offers businesses marketing packs and posters as well as exposure through social media.
In Newcastle, the city council is hosting a training and employment roadshow at various venues, and a Christmas market for new traders has been established in Princes Square.
Retailers in the city’s Grainger Market are also offering various promotions and discounts for shoppers.
Stephen Patterson, director of communications at NE1, the city’s business improvement district (BID), said: “It’s the small business community of Newcastle that gives the city its unique flavour. Having a mix of big high street brands and designers names is crucial for the city to maintain its presence as a leading European city - but the independent boutiques, vintage shops and small independent businesses give the city’s retail scene its distinct identity.
“We are also fortunate in Newcastle to have the most restaurants per square mile than any other North East city and in this sector we also have a wealth of small independent operators.
“Small Business Saturday gives us the opportunity to turn the spotlight onto these businesses and encourage new and existing customers to pay them a visit.
Meanwhile, Sunderland’s BID, Experience It Here!, in association with Sunderland Traders’ Association, is encouraging people to support “home grown” business in their city.
Ken Dunbar, Sunderland BID chief executive, said: “Sunderland has a wealth of small, independently-owned businesses and we hope that Small Business Saturday will put a focus on them.
“They offer a range of really exciting products and we want more shoppers to recognise that fact and support them.”
Sunderland’s activities include the ‘Advent Door’ which moves around the city until Christmas Eve, offering shoppers the chance to win daily prizes, and Sunderland Makers Market will station itself at Independent, hosting vintage arts, crafts, jewellery and clothing traders.
Across County Durham, the county council is offering free parking from 10am. In the run-up to Small Business Saturday the council also offered customer service training to traders in the Seaham and Chester-le-Street areas.
Cllr Neil Foster, Cabinet member for economic regeneration, said: “As the lifeblood of our towns and villages, it’s vital we all support our local high street businesses.”
National Campaign director Michelle Ovens, said: “The first Small Business Saturday last year was an exceptional example of collaboration and co-operation with small businesses teaming up in communities around the UK.
“We always said we wanted this to be the start of something amazing; a regular event that shines a light on small businesses throughout the UK in a way which is hugely beneficial to both the local and the national economy.
“Small Business Saturday reinforces that message and demonstrates the level of diversity, innovation and talent that is active within our small business sector.”
The campaign has received backing from all political parties, with many senior politicians taking to the streets in last year’s campaign to champion small business.
Business organisations such as the Federation of Small Businesses, the Association of City and Town Management, Association of Convenience Stores and Northern Ireland Independent Retail Trade Association, have also given their support to the programme.
Last year’s event was estimated to have generated £468m in sales for small business across the UK as a whole.
45% of those aware of the day who shopped in a small businesses during last year’s day, said they spent more than usual, with nearly one in five (19%) saying they had spent at least 50% more than they would have usually done on a typical Saturday.