A LONG-ESTABLISHED and much loved business in a North-East town centre took to social media to ask people not to forget about independent traders.

Three Squares Café, on Skinnergate, Darlington, said on Facebook that the street had become “very quiet”, asked people to spread the word and “remind people about us”.

The post was shared over 20,000 times, giving the business 317 new Facebook followers in the space of 48 hours.

And the concern was repeated by other business owners on Skinnergate, with many saying they feel that trade along the street is on the decline.

Louise Dobson, who manages Three Squares Café’s Facebook page and works in Skinnergate News, said: “It has been quiet. Since Argos has gone, there’s not a lot left. It’s not the same as it used to be.”

Argos, previously situated on Skinnergate, closed in October and reopened as Argos Digital inside a Sainsbury’s store on the town's Victoria Road.

Other major chains have recently moved their business out of Darlington, including TK Maxx and Grainger Games.

This reflects figures recently released by the Local Data Health Company (LDC) that showed last year 24 stores closed and nine opened, giving Darlington a net reduction of minus 15 – the highest of any shopping area in the North-East.

The LDC said in 2017 store openings nationally fell to their lowest level in seven years, with an average of 16 high street stores closing every day.

Mrs Dobson said that another problem is the limited parking around the town which persuades people to shop in retail parks further afield.

She added: “You have got to give people a push, we need something to bring people in.”

This feeling was echoed by other Skinnergate traders, who said that high street stores leaving the town take business with them.

One shop owner said: “I’ve noticed a change massively over the last few years. We have a plethora of independent traders but not a lot of high street stores.

“With every development they always put a shopping centre near it, which takes the business away from here.

“We need to change the dynamics of the town. There’s nothing to entice people. We as traders notice it.”

Ann Coxon, who co-owns Leggs with her husband, felt the rate of business along the street varies day-to-day, and is not declining as rapidly as thought by other traders.

She said: “Sometimes you can be busy and the town can be quiet and sometimes the town is busy and it’s quiet here. If the sun comes out, the people come in. If the weather is rubbish like it has been lately, people stay at home.

“I think it’s down to different businesses and different people’s needs.”