BUSINESSES in a market town centre have banded together to fight the “negativity” surrounding recent closures.
Retailers large and small – from department stores to independent corner shops – are determined to rid Hexham of any recession-linked gloom.
And more than 40 have joined forces to begin a series of initiatives aimed at showcasing the Tyne Valley town in its best light.
A number of business premises in the town currently stand empty, including two of its three hotels.
A series of smaller shops have also suffered during the economic downturn in and around the town centre, such as long-established electrical store Robinson & Cowell on the main street and The Bike Shop on St Mary’s Chare.
But Chinese restaurateur Wil Cheung has led the battle to raise Hexham’s profile, and says: “The positives outweigh the negatives.”
Wil has acted to bring the town’s businesses together and launched the inaugural Hexham Showcase event at the town Auction Mart’s function suite this week.
Models from his own online agency, Zest Models, sported the latest fashions from Hexham businesses including Marks & Spencer, M & Co, Beales, Petals, Sorella, Fake Monkey and Ashley Matthews.
Others put on trade stands of food, goods and services, while charities including Josie’s Dragonfly Trust and Tynedale Hospice at Home were also present.
Wil, owner of the Golden Dragon restaurant on Battle Hill, said: “About seven weeks ago, during a lot of negativity in the town, I was thinking, ‘There are a lot of great shops in Hexham’. And there are also a lot of places that some residents don’t know about.
“So I brought together as many businesses as I could, fixed up the first Hexham Showcase event, and we got over 100 people in.
“As host I gave a talk, and I really rammed home that we have a selection of really unique and great businesses in Hexham.
More and more businesses are now ringing and emailing me saying they want to be involved.
“Yes, there are buildings empty, but that’s how things are at the moment. Let’s focus on what’s here as well as why these buildings are empty. We are celebrating what we have – let’s support what we have and build for the future.”