STRUGGLING retailers will be given free advice and funding as part of a new scheme to support businesses across five towns.
Wyre Council’s Get ReWyred scheme has launched to boost trade across towns which missed out on cash from shopping guru Mary Portas’ campaign.
It comes despite all of the borough’s towns falling below the national average for empty premises in January.
The scheme will see independent businesses receive free support from professional advisors, who will carry out assessments and generate action plans for future development.
This is complemented by a funding programme that offers grants of up to £600 to retailers who can match the amount awarded.
Results from a January 2013 Vacancy Rate Survey carried out by Springboard Research revealed Fleetwood, Cleveleys, Thornton, Garstang and Poulton all fell below the 13.4 per cent empty property national average.
The figures found more than 10 per cent of ground floor units in Thornton were empty, 8.3 per cent in Poulton and 7.5 per cent in Fleetwood.
Michael Ryan, corporate director with responsibility for economic development at Wyre Council, said: “Shop vacancy rates in all five of Wyre’s town centres are consistently below the national and regional averages.
“This is due largely to the tenacity and determination of business owners in Wyre and partly to the strong identities and varied offers of our town centres.”
Get ReWyred was made possible after the authority signed up to the Town Team Partners scheme shortly after missing out on shopping guru Mary Portas’ campaign to transform town centres.
Mr Ryan added: “We’re very proud of our widely successful business network Wyred Up which has helped to create economic stability in the borough.
“We now want to build on this with the launch of Get ReWyred, which has three different strands aimed at supporting individual retail businesses and collectively boosting our town centre economies.”
Additional help will be made available through a Dragon’s Den-style competitive grant scheme called Wyre Winners.
Retailers are asked to submit ideas to develop their businesses in the hope of winning a share of £10,000, with the top three receiving £5,000, £3,000 and £2,000 respectively.
Jane Littlewood runs the Wyred Up business networking group, she said: “We are already bucking the trend and doing a lot of better than most other places.
“There are not as many vacant or boarded up properties compared to other towns, but we can’t rest on our laurels, we have to support people and get them moving.”
Pete Ryan, chairman of Thornton Action Group, backed the plan to keep as many shops open as possible.
He said: “Any kind of financial support for a local business is to be welcomed. It’s disappointing to see empty premises and it doesn’t create the right atmosphere which makes people want to buy something or enjoy the shopping experience because people immediately think how long the other shops are going to be open for.”