Councillors and staff across Darlington Borough Council have given their backing to a national campaign to encourage shoppers to treat retail staff with respect and kindness this Christmas.
The #keepChristmaskind campaign aims to highlight the rudeness, abuse and even physical assault some shopworkers face from customers, just for doing their job.
The support from the council to our traders – both independent and national retailers – comes as the town centre gears up for the busiest shopping period of the year, with visitor numbers expected to be high this weekend as people take the opportunity to do their Christmas shopping.
Ahead of the lifting of national lockdown restrictions on Wednesday (2 December) the council’s town centre team worked closely with shopping centre managers, our civic enforcement teams and local police to identify any potential hotspots for overcrowding or bottlenecks.
The town’s Community Ambassadors will also be on hand to offer guidance around social distancing and the importance of mask-wearing, as well as offering support to anyone who needs assistance.
Since they were deployed in the town centre in October, the ambassadors have also helped out at six medical emergencies and have worked to engage with students in busy areas of the town, particularly around lunchtimes.
The joint effort aims to help people complete their festive shopping safely – bearing in mind the key advice about washing hands, wearing a face covering and keeping socially distanced at all times – and support our traders after a difficult period.
Councillor Jonathan Dulston, deputy leader of the council, said: “Retail staff have been the backbone of the response to keep the country moving this year and, as we head into the busy Christmas period, I would urge people to be respectful of staff who are simply doing their jobs.
“The Christmas shopping period might be a bit shorter than usual – and that brings its own stresses and worries - but that is no excuse to let tensions spill over into abuse and even violence. As a council, we’ve worked hard with partners to look at how we make the shopping experience as smooth as possible, taking the need to queue and socially distance into mind in our planning.
“Council staff will be available throughout the festive period and are on hand to answer any questions or concerns you may have.”
Ann Coxon, from Leggs Fashion in Skinnergate, said: “Darlington has a very strong business community, we all help each other and look after each other.
"We do need people to shop local, we won’t survive if people don’t come and shop at their local places. We have a very good customer base, they’re very loyal and we wouldn’t be here now without them.”
Jackson, a Community Ambassador for Darlington Borough Council, said: “We’re in the town centre ensuring that everyone’s sticking to the government guidelines as best as possible, everyone we see out in the town we’re just ensuring that they’re all safe, staying two metres apart and having a nice time while they’re out.”
Two hours free parking remains in all council-run car parks – drivers must press the green button on the machine on arrival for a ticket to show what time they arrived.