Kath's Occasions cafe inside Market Hall Shops, Chester-le-Street. Photograph by Graham Soult

Telling a positive story

In Chester-le-Street, a forward-thinking landlord, who owns commercial property throughout the town centre, is engaging CannyInsights.com to work with his retail tenants for 1.5 days each month.

Key benefits that we are delivering include promoting the retailers via social media, providing digital skills training for the retailers themselves, and also giving advice and encouragement on how the retailers can best grow their businesses.

The project builds on earlier work conducted in Chester-le-Street in 2014, where we undertook a high-street audit for Chester-le-Street Business Association, recorded uses and vacancy rates, and highlighted priorities for improvement and action.

Market Hall Shops

The main focus of activity is Market Hall Shops, a small shopping arcade on the town’s Front Street. When we began working with the landlord, the physical fabric of the Market Hall needed some improvement, but it had started to build up a distinctive and interesting mix of attractive independent retailers.

However, the Market Hall was suffering from lingering negative perceptions – some dating back to its time, under previous ownership, as InShops – which were holding back investment and having a negative impact on the retailers inside. The Market Hall was also almost invisible online, mirroring a lack of digital coverage about Chester-le-Street town centre as a whole.

Project activities

Our work has included advising the landlord on the most essential and cost-effective improvements to the Market Hall, and occasionally acting as an extra communication channel between the landlord and his tenants.

Meanwhile, the newly created @MarketHallCleS accounts on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are being used to share positive stories, keep the local community updated on progress, and find out what further changes current and potential customers would like to see.

Importantly, these social media accounts are not just posting updates about the landlord’s own tenants, but are also regularly highlighting other shops, businesses and events in the town.

This approach recognises that if Chester-le-Street is to thrive, all businesses benefit from working together to build a positive digital footprint, and that the town will be more of a destination if potential visitors can appreciate the full extent of what it offers.


In the first six months, improvements to the Market Hall have included the creation of new shop units, repainting of communal areas, new carpet, the installation of free wi-fi, enhancements to the street frontage, and the arrival of a new café and independent retailers.

Retailers and customers are reacting positively to the changes, footfall is improving, and the number of vacant units has reduced.

Several retailers have benefited from our one-to-one marketing support, with some now promoting their business via social media for the first time.

Measures of Chester-le-Street’s online visibility are already registering this increase in activity. As of October 2017, the WDYT Digital Influence Index – which tracks Twitter and Instagram activity by retailers in 1,300 towns and cities across the UK, and champions how this translates into footfall – reported that Chester-le-Street had risen 70 places during 2017, to be ranked at 449. As we assist more town-centre retailers in becoming socially active, there is plenty of potential to grow Chester-le-Street’s digital footprint further.

In turn, all the activity and buzz around the Market Hall is helping to build more positive perceptions of Chester-le-Street as a whole, and encourage lapsed shoppers to give the town another look.

Can we help your town?

If you’re interested in our work in Chester-le-Street, and would like us to make a similar difference wherever you are, drop us a line and we can have a chat.

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