Over the past few days the Christmas lights have been going on in town centres around my constituency reminding us, if we needed it, that the festive season is under way.
The ‘season’ is, of course, a critical time for the businesses that trade in our town centres 52 weeks of the year. They need a good trading Christmas to sustain them and ensure our high streets remain vibrant and strong for our communities.
Competition has never been tougher, particularly for the small independent traders who help give our town centres their individual character and identities. Ironically, as I write this, the country is witnessing another so-called ‘Black Friday’, which last year led to unprecedented ugly scenes as shoppers fought over the bargain buys.
It is also being reported that for the first time online sales will top the £1bn mark in one day. Human nature being what it is, everyone wants a bargain and that is perfectly understandable when household budgets come under the sort of pressure that only Christmas can bring.
But I would urge everyone to consider the old maxim ‘Use it, or lose it’, which is what will happen if people continue to drift away from shopping local. No one wants to see town centres with shops boarded up, and if everyone spent just a little of their Christmas budgets in their own town centres, that would make such a difference to shops staying open.