SHOPPERS are being encouraged to spend their money on their doorsteps as this year’s Christmas shopping season gets under way.

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Forget the internet, for a really personal experience this festive season there is no alternative to shopping locally, and the Herts Advertiser will be campaigning on behalf of our district’s retailers over the coming weeks.

Whether you’re looking for unusual gifts, tasty treats or sensational outfits, traders in St Albans, Harpenden and the surrounding villages could be the answer to all your Christmas wishes.

Around 30 per cent of retailers’ annual sales are achieved in the six weeks before Christmas, so you’re also helping ensure they start 2013 in the best possible position.

We want to increase trade for all our local retailers, both high street chains and independents, by encouraging our readers to spend their hard-earned savings at Home for the Holidays this year.

Shopping locally helps to improve the local economy - research suggests a pound spent with a local business stays in the local economy for five more transactions whereas a pound spend with a national business operating locally stays in the local economy for just two transactions.

Lisa Bates, Herts Ad columnist and general manager of St Albans and District Chamber of Commerce, said: “The independent shops in St Albans and Harpenden give the diversity we need in our towns and cities, it is so important to support them as it can be a huge challenge to keep going in places like this where your rent is high, there is limited parking for staff, and business rates and the general economic climate are so tough.

“Let’s support our local shops and buy local, keep your money in this district this Christmas and help support these local businesses that create local jobs and add character to St Albans as a shopping destination.”

Herts Advertiser editor Matt Adams said: “We all know how important our local shops are to us here in St Albans and Harpenden - these independent businesses help define our district and we hope this campaign encourages people to do more of their spending locally and introduces new customers to shops with a proud local tradition and heritage.

“Over the next three weeks we will also be highlighting some of the superb, unique services available in our local towns from independent retailers.

“We will also be speaking to a range of experts who will help explain exactly why it is vital we all support our local shops.

“There will also be useful information to help you do more of your Christmas shopping locally - including what’s happening in our shopping centres this season, and some of the entertainment taking place to make things more festive.”

Luisa Zissman of Dixie’s Cupcakery was instrumental in launching the campaign: “I think it’s essential to support local retailers at this time of year, many of us rely on Christmas trade and after a tough year in retail with some big name shops close on our high street it’s so important to remember the local independent shops that make St Albans a beautiful, unique city.

“St Albans offers so much, especially at Christmas with some really unusual gift ideas. For instance Dixie’s now offer cupcake decorating class gift vouchers at our new cake academy as well as heaps of baking accessories.

“Keep it real and shop St Albans as opposed to another run of the mill shopping centre! I challenge any resident or visitor of our lovely city to not find everything they need this Christmas in St Albans.”

Thomas Black, manager of independent toy shop Cuthberts in Christopher Place, said: “Shopping local is vital to the local community because it helps to keep town centres welcoming and interesting.

“Local shops add character to a city, bring variety and offer a personal aspect that many of the corporates are unable to. Independents normally have a better feel for what the community wants and the levels of service expected.

“It is also usual for local independents to source and use the services of supporting business from within the community.”

Cllr Beric Read, portfolio holder for community engagement and localism, wanted to highlight some of the exciting events happening locally this Christmas: “St Albans is unique for shopping, with a lot of small independent shops offering a very different range of goods from the normal chains. On top of this we have the much loved market, and a large number of great places to eat and drink.

“This year the Mayor’s Carol concert will be at the top of St Peter’s Street, near the War Memorial at 4pm on December 16.”

The Harpenden Society has been a motivating force behind the initiative to encourage the shops in Harpenden High Street to open every Sunday in December during the run up to Christmas.

Harpenden has many excellent local shops covering a wide range of products, and the campaign emphasises that residents can shop locally without having to travel miles to shopping centres.

Ron Taylor, committee member of The Harpenden Society, explained: “The society has recently formed the Thriving High Street group to improve amenities for residents and to bolster turnover for the many shops and businesses.One of the society’s aims is to promote the well-being of the town in all its aspects. We are pleased to be able to assist the local community in this way and we hope it will be a great success.”

Keith Lunn of Harpenden Retail Partnership said: “Christmas is a key time of year for all High Streets and this year it’s as important as ever to shop locally and support the independent retailers who make up a significant part of Harpenden town centre.

“The Christmas Carnival and lights switch-on is traditionally the curtain raiser to the start of the festive season and it was great to see the public in vast numbers also supporting the many shops who opened that day.

“The Harpenden Retail Partnership is delighted that many retailers are opening on Sundays throughout December which will hopefully encourage more visitors into town and of course we have the Christmas farmers’ market on Sunday December 23 to look forward to.”

Keith added: “Harpenden has a wide range of shops and I would encourage everyone to support their town centre by shopping locally where possible. The smaller independent retailers provide diversity and variety to the High Street and are an essential part of why Harpenden is a vibrant place to live, work or visit.

“They are a source of employment, support the local community and are often a route to market for a wide range of local, independent producers, designers and manufacturers. We need to celebrate independent retail and the value this sector brings to the community and the local economy.

“The Harpenden Retail Partnership is committed to maintaining and improving the appeal of Harpenden as an attractive retail proposition, please support our independent shops and when shopping - keep it local!”

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