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Thousands of Christmas Shoppers Take Advantage of Mayor’s New Scheme to Boost Festive Trade

Thousands of Christmas shoppers have already taken advantage of a new scheme set up by the Tees Valley Mayor to support local independent businesses during the festive season, with hundreds of companies signed up.

To help independent retailers during this year’s unusual but vital Christmas shopping period, Mayor Ben Houchen has unveiled a new version of the Buy Local Tees Valley website, buylocal.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/,  which has received a complete redesign and overhaul.

Buy Local Tees Valley has been improved to let thousands of Christmas shoppers in the region know about the fantastic offerings local independents in Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool are still providing during the festive season, despite the restrictions on non-essential retail that are currently in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Since launching on Monday, the site, which currently has details of 850 local businesses, has received more than 3,000 visitors from people looking for gift ideas, from candles and cakes to furniture and hotel stays.

The new Christmas area has the opportunity for businesses, who can sign up for free, to link directly to their websites, Instagram shopping, Etsy, Facebook or any other e-commerce platforms, display new imagery and ultimately promote any click-and-collect or delivery services their business offers.

Mayor Houchen established Buy Local Tees Valley in April during the first coronavirus lockdown to help support local companies by connecting firms that are still open, but may have been operating differently, with local shoppers who wanted to support local independent businesses, with more than 10,000 people using the site.

With the new coronavirus lockdown coinciding with the start of the Christmas shopping season, the new Buy Local Tees Valley provides a virtual festive shop window to make it even more useful to local independent retailers, with new categories and making it easier for shop owners to upload more product information and images.

One business owner who has been using Buy Local Tees Valley is Erin Joy Harper, 26. Erin owns Darlington’s Rejoy beauty salon and also mentors other businesses in the region.

She said: “I signed up to Buy Local during the first lockdown and it’s been a brilliant resource to let the public know we’re still up and running. I’m particularly excited for its Christmas-themed relaunch as we’ll be using it to promote our new 25 Reasons advent calendar.

“We’ve teamed up with House of Zana and SG Jewellery Designs to create a luxury handmade wall-hanging calendar. It features gifts and vouchers behind each door from 25 local beauty and fashion brands, many of which are independent, so we can get the word out about these brilliant Tees Valley businesses.

“Buy Local is another way for people to discover what’s still out there and support smaller retailers in the run-up to Christmas. We really stand for independent companies pulling together in the face of coronavirus, and helping each other get through it, so I’m telling all of those I work with to sign up!”

Mayor Houchen said: “Christmas may be an unusual and difficult time for many people this year, but I want to make sure that isn’t the case for our brilliant local businesses. Just because some shops can’t open at present, it doesn’t mean we can’t shop local and support local jobs this Christmas.

“During the first coronavirus lockdown the Buy Local Tees Valley website was really useful for connecting our amazing independent retailers with local people who wanted to back them during a very difficult time. Now that we are heading into the Christmas shopping season services like Buy Local Tees Valley are more important than ever before.

“I know these are difficult times for everyone, but we will not let this virus hold us back. Whether it is the Welcome Back Fund that I launched to help our pubs, bars and restaurants safely reopen at the end of the first lockdown or my £1million Emergency Apprenticeship Fund designed to backed 100 apprentices, we’ve tried to do all we can to support firms across Teesside, Darlington and Hartlepool through the pandemic and this is just the latest step.”

For more information and to sign your business up for free, visit buylocal.teesvalley-ca.gov.uk/