City centre businesses urged to get connected

14 March 2019

Small businesses in Sunderland city centre are being offered the chance to open up a new world of opportunity, with free connectivity packages to support them as they grow.

Sunderland Business Improvement District (BID), working alongside Esh Group and Nice Network Ltd, has launched a new initiative providing city centre traders with everything they need to go digital.

The programme - named SR1 Connect - provides businesses with a free tablet or mobile phone for one year, as well as a data package to allow them to access the internet and a place on an ‘introduction to social media’ workshop.

The aim is to help businesses engage with new and potential customers via social media and to help bridge the gap between the online world and the physical retail world.

The BID, with the backing of Esh Group, powered by Nice Network, has 10 packages available, and they will be offered on a first come first served basis to businesses operating in the city centre.

Sharon Appleby, head of operations at Sunderland BID, said: “This is a great opportunity for city centre businesses to tap in to free support and ensure they’re benefiting from the abundance of opportunities presented by the worlds of social media and ecommerce.

“We know that some of the independent businesses in our city centre can struggle with connectivity and may not have the tools at their disposal to develop social media channels that drive traffic to their website or store, so we have worked up a package, with the kind support of Esh and Nice Network, that we know will deliver what traders in the city need.

“It’s a great initiative and something we’re hoping will not only benefit the city’s independents but also the wider city economy.”

Nice Network – formerly known as CCS Mobile – has been based in Sunderland for 32 years and provides communications and telecoms solutions to global businesses from Nike to Draeger and Puma.

Nikki Lee, marketing manager at Nice Network, said: “We are absolutely delighted to be working alongside Esh Group and Sunderland BID on this project.

“As a business which started life from humble beginnings in Sunderland almost 30 years ago, we are aware of the challenges the region’s businesses face, especially in the retail sector, but also the way in which a little bit of support can transform a business’ capabilities.

“It’s now more important than ever before for businesses - especially retailers - to embrace digital technologies and establish an online presence and we hope this initiative will help them do exactly that.”

Durham based construction business Esh Group committed a proportion of its annual data allowance to the project to allow the BID to offer the packages to businesses.

Darush Dodds, Head of Corporate Affairs at Esh Group, added: “We take great pride in delivering Social Value, part of which is supporting small businesses in the areas we operate. We are working in on several significant projects in Sunderland and this great initiative has been made possible through collaboration with our supply chain.”

“Ensuring local businesses have the support and skills to succeed is of vital importance to our economy and we’re delighted to be involved in a campaign which will do exactly that.”

Businesses interested in the SR1 Connect programme are being asked to contact Nikki Lee on [email protected] before Friday 12th April 2019.