TRADERS and business owners are joining forces to encourage people to shop locally and save their town centre.

Following the collapse of high street giants HMV, Jessops, Blockbuster and Comet, a group of Darlington business owners have joined together to urge people to save the high street and independent retailers.

The group - which also includes residents, Covered Market traders, the Darlington Town Centre Management team and Darlington Borough Council leader, Bill Dixon - is fighting back to save its town centre and to encourage people to take pride in Darlington.

Leading the fight is Beryl Hankin, who runs Guru Boutique, in Blackwellgate.

“Everybody is finding it tough at the moment, but we want to try our best to harness the good spirit of Darlington and to encourage local businesses to prosper,” she said.

“We are all in it together and we have all got to help each other. People love Darlington and there is something special about the place.

“Darlington has so much going for it and we have got to keep it alive for future generations.”

Despite the increasing popularity of internet shopping, the group believes there will always be a place for the high street shops and independent retailers, and are encouraging people to get out there and discover what Darlington has to offer.

Bill Gillow, who runs Geoffrey Gillow clothes shop, which has been in Darlington's Grange Road for 45 years, said: “I think the high street will flourish. It is changing but it will hopefully change for the better.

“We are encouraging the local people of Darlington to experience that extra customer service they can get by coming into town and into a shop, rather than buying online.

“It is a much more social experience and you simply cannot get that by buying off the Internet.”

Michelle Van Vlijmen, from Darlington Town Centre Management, said: “The businesses are clubbing together to fight the doom and gloom and they are doing a fantastic job.

“Not everybody knows about the independent shops down the side streets and in the yards, so we are encouraging people to try something new and save local businesses.”

For more information on the fight to save Darlington's high street, join the Destination Darlington Facebook group.