SHOPS and restaurants which help make Durham a vibrant place to visit were acknowledged at a prestigious event this week.

The awards ceremony, held at Ramside Hall Hotel on Wednesday, saw menswear retailer Woven named Overall Retailer of the Year for the “excellent store presentation and customer experience”.

Staff from the Elvet Bridge shop collected the award at a ceremony attended by Durham County Council chairman Cllr John Lethbridge, leader Cllr Simon Henig and cabinet member for economic regeneration Cllr Carl Marshall.

Business owner Chris Hayes said: “Winning awards is a massive pat on the back, we don’t set out to win awards but just to be the best we can.

“Retail is really hard, in Durham we’ve lost ten to 15 shops in the last year or so but it is a beautiful cathedral and university city with a lot to offer.

“It is a wonderful place to visit, shop and work.

“We are chuffed to bit to win, there are eight staff and we’re like a family so very proud. It is great how many good independents there are in Durham.”

Jewellery store Bramwells, which has occupied 24 Elvet Bridge since 1887, won Independent Retailer of the Year.

Belle Amé scooped the Small Retailer of the Year for its hair and beauty salon in the heart of Durham.

Other winners were: Window of the Year, Woven; Retail Experience of the Year, Woven; Cafe of the Year, Esquires; Restaurant of the Year, Tapas Factory; Bar of the Year, Old Tom’s; Retail Person of the Year, Teddy Leake; Large Retailer of the Year, Specsavers and Market Trader, Bound 2 Fit.

The awards, organised by Durham County Council in partnership with Prince Bishops Shopping Centre, invited members of the public to nominate their favourite shops and highlight staff who make a difference.

Those shortlisted were then visited by mystery shoppers, who were sent to the leading six retailers in each category, who used a points system to find the winners.

Cllr Marshall said: “Retailers play a vital role in keeping our city thriving and establishing Durham as a unique, exciting place to live and visit.

“The awards are really dedicated to celebrating the hard work of the wonderful staff who provide customers with great retail experiences. Congratulations to all winners.”