City of Durham Parish Council hires award-winning retail guru to support city centre businesses through COVID-19 and beyond

City of Durham Parish Council has contracted the services of North East retail consultant Graham Soult to give city centre businesses a boost.

The City of Durham Parish Council has contracted the services of award-winning North East retail consultant Graham Soult to support local businesses through the difficulties of COVID-19 and to give city centre businesses a boost.

Described on BBC Look North as “the region’s best-known retail expert”, and by ITV as “a North East Mary Portas”, Graham Soult is a High Streets Task Force Expert, retail consultant, blogger and media commentator, as well as the vice-chairman of Durham Business Group. Graham is regularly ranked as one of the top retail experts in the UK and his recent work in County Durham has seen major improvements and increased footfall to Chester-le-Street Front Street.

Graham will primarily be working with local businesses in Durham City over the coming weeks and months to help them set up and improve their online presence and operations; a vital step to help businesses survive whilst the lockdown measures introduced by the Government in a bid to tackle the spread of COVID-19 are in place.

Added to this, Graham will also be promoting independent retailers in the city, and working with the Parish Council to help secure a variety of new retail and leisure occupants for empty business units.

With experience of generating around 400,000 impressions on social media sites such as Twitter each month, Graham will also be leading on an unprecedented social media campaign – under the @IndieDurhamCity strapline – to increase footfall in Durham city centre once the lockdown measures have been lifted.

Chair of the City of Durham Parish Council Coun. Elizabeth Scott said:

“We are absolutely delighted to be working with Graham Soult to support our local businesses in these extremely difficult times. Graham has a fantastic national reputation for delivering excellent results for city centres across the UK.

“For many businesses, our immediate concern is obviously making sure that they have the best possible support with their online presence and operations in response to the Government’s lockdown measures and all the pressures this brings to our retail sector.

“But more widely, we want to give the city a real boost post-pandemic with a huge social media campaign promoting Durham as a place to visit and shop with your family, with the aim of achieving greater footfall, empty units filled, and a more diverse offer for consumers. Our work will not be finished until Durham becomes the all-units-filled, independent retail capital of the UK.”

Graham Soult said:

“I am thrilled to be working with businesses in Durham city. Durham is such a phenomenal place and it is clear that the Parish Council is keen to take a lead in supporting businesses of all shapes and sizes in the city centre in Durham and helping them to flourish.

“My immediate task is to ensure that businesses are well-equipped to survive the pressures of COVID-19. But thinking past this, how the city centre recovers post-pandemic will be crucial. As chain stores leave town centres, a growing pool of independent shops and other businesses is needed to reinvigorate and sustain those places – not just in terms of filling empty units, but also in ensuring that there is a distinctive, quality, local offer, giving consumers a fantastic experience”.

Graham will be starting work in Durham later this month and his services are available free of charge to all businesses based in the City of Durham Parish area.

For more information, and a sign-up form for getting involved, visit

More coverage

Sunderland Echo: “Retail expert drafted in to help Durham city centre shops battle back from coronavirus crisis”

Chronicle: “Retail guru’s plan to revive Durham city centre with social media campaign and independent shops”

Northern Echo: “Retail guru hired to help Durham city traders hit by Covid-19”

1 Comment

This is really great news – Durham is a fantastic city but like all places needs work to maintain its status. There are many retailers that would fit right in if the business case was right.

Good luck with this initiative.

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