Date: 22nd June 2021


STOCKTON High Street is evolving not dying – that’s the message from the second series of Humans of the High Street, as businesses begin their recovery from the pandemic.

The second YouTube series, from Stockton Business Improvement District (BID) and OOK creative marketing agency, explores how businesses are coping more than one year after the first lockdown saw them close their doors to the public.

The innovative project sees Stockton businesses take part in a series of emotive video interviews a year after the first series documented the thoughts and feelings of company owners on whether they would survive the impact of Covid 19.

Jason Maxwell, Stockton BID Manager, said: “The videos give you a real heartfelt, genuine feeling of those people behind the businesses – and that’s what we wanted to portray really.

“We wanted the public to know that there are real people running our High Street businesses and that they absolutely do their best for their customers.

“It isn’t just about making money for them, when you see the people behind the businesses they are passionate about what they do and about giving their customers the right treatments, products or services – whatever it happens to be.”

The message from the videos is that Stockton town centre has a thriving business community with companies who are dedicated to working together to support one another – but the public also need to play their part in supporting local entrepreneurs at this critical time.

“A common misconception is that there’s nothing left in Stockton – that there are no businesses left and it’s a ghost town,” Jason says.

“In fact, from our figures, we know that there are more than 400 businesses within our Business Improvement District and what we need people to see is that there are both national and independent businesses, who need your support now.

“I think if people see the raw emotion and collective passion that comes out in this series of Humans of the High Street and the first one, people will come out and support their local businesses.”

Throughout the Pandemic, Stockton BID has been a visible presence for businesses in the town, helping people with everything from sourcing PPE and hand sanitiser to assisting with grant applications and how to put staff on furlough.

Jason says: “We can’t help every business in the same way, but what we have done is we have helped each individual business that has wanted our help where we can.

“Sometimes it has just been a case of being a point of contact with questions like “can you chase my grant?” or “can you help us with hand sanitisers?” or posters or sneeze guards.

“What I hope we have achieved is to have been a point of contact and source of information that we have been able to share with businesses to alleviate some of the worries that they might have had, because it is an ultra-stressful time for everybody, so every little bit of stress or worry that we can help to alleviate, we absolutely will.”

The videos include Jolene Rees of Innovations Beauty, who says Jason and Stockton BID have been an immense source of support.

When lockdown hit in March 2020, Jolene, who owns the three-storey building her business operates from, was initially very worried about the implications of closing her doors.

However, after reopening when permitted in April, business is now going well for her – with de-stress massages a particularly popular treatment request.

Jolene said: “Jason is always helpful, whether it’s through sharing my social media posts or to find you an answer to something you need help with.

“He is always there if you need to contact him and there has definitely been a presence from Stockton BID - they’ve been checking in on people to make sure everyone is coping.”

Other businesses that feature in the second series of Humans of the High Street include Panico’s specialist craft and sewing shop, Michael Poole Estate Agent, Darlington Building Society and Contemporary Hair.

Jason believes that with big department stores now closing on the High Street and moving online, small independent businesses and the new and innovative use of large premises on the High Street will bring customers back once again.

Jason said: “I think the future will be about independent businesses and better shopping experiences for customers – if we can get the types of shops and units that those independents can go into.

“The old Debenhams and Marks and Spencer buildings are too big to house independents, so we need to look at what we do with those.

“Things have to change – but the High Street in Stockton is about evolving, not dying.”

Maxine Freer, founder of creative design and marketing agency OOK, which developed the Humans of the High Street project, said: “Everyone is moving towards hyper-locality and one thing we’ve been looking at as a marketing company is all the research, consumer patterns and different behaviours and trends that are emerging and point to that, so that the creative solutions and marketing campaigns we devise for clients like Stockton BID are reflective of the real world.”

Stockton Business Improvement District is the only Independent BID in the Tees Valley.

Throughout the pandemic, the BID has been a consistent companion and creative champion for its business community, ramping up the ‘Shop Local’ message.

The BID’s marketing highlights included Home for Horrid Halloween, which saw The Mistress of Evil delivering Halloween party packs from the High Street to homes in Stockton, while Indie Street Heroes, a Christmas campaign which featured 'selfie vids’ filmed by the businesses on their mobile phones, exceeded 120,000 views.

To coincide with the town re-opening, Stockton BID launched the digital campaign Shop Indie Street Stockton.

For videos, visit YouTube.

And for more information, visit Stockton BID website or Stockton BID’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

Sam Withers