For that personal touch this Christmas, you can’t beat independent retailers in St Albans, Harpenden, Redbourn and Wheathampstead

WHY not switch off your laptop, embrace the fun and festivities of the season, and do your Christmas shopping on the high street this year?

That is the message behind the Herts Advertiser’s Home for the Holidays campaign, which aims to encourage shoppers to use their local retailers for all of their Christmas needs.

We have been highlighting some of the superb, unique services available in our local towns from independent retailers and speaking to a range of experts who have helped explain exactly why it is vital we all support our local shops.

Herts Advertiser editor Matt Adams said: “Why make your Christmas shopping experience a cold, lonely activity on the internet when you could be enjoying the amazing array of independent retailers on our doorstep?

“There’s nothing quite like the excitement of hurrying down a busy high street, dashing into shops and hunting down that elusive present for a loved one. It shows so much more thought and commitment than simply clicking on a button on a soulless website.”

Sarah Snapes, spokesperson for The Maltings Shopping Centre, said: “Shopping close by builds a stronger local economy and allows you to take advantage of local merchants and offers right on your doorstep.

“The Maltings is an integral part of the local community and have many stores that not only have fantastic retail services but offer shoppers exclusive events and offers just for the people of St Albans.

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“Our Christmas Spirit campaign embodies just this with free music, food and competitions from our retailers every Saturday before Christmas, giving something back to our local shoppers.

“We are always looking for new and innovative ways in which we can work with the local community, ways in which we can support and add value to campaigns and projects.

“In order to better strengthen our support for our retailers and neighbourhood offerings, St Albans needs to celebrate its local trades and embrace a community spirit!”

Gels Piccituo, managing director of Kashu restaurant, said: “The city of St Albans has an array of boutique stores, restaurants and caf�s run by local entrepreneurs whose endeavours employ local people - it is essential that through this tough economic climate for the local populous to lend a hand to these individual, unique, operators.

“Locals need to vote with their wallets and their feet but also their hearts.”

Restaurateur Andrei Lussmann added: “Keeping the pound local is the very lifeline that keeps our high street from becoming both homogenised and drab. A vibrant high street is essential for all our futures.”

Jane Hartley, owner of Maison Hartley said: “Our premises in George Street remained empty for over 18 months before I signed the lease and many of our new customer have commented on how nice it is to see the shop open again.

“We really want to encourage local people to come back to George Street because it ceases to be attractive if there are many empty shops.

“I personally make a gargantuan effort to change the windows and put love and care in to making it an interesting and happy shopping experience! Our efforts have already been rewarded by the lovely comments and we are very grateful to customers who have gone one step further and purchased things from us!

“I feel really strongly that people need to realise that if they don’t patronise what is there on their doorstep, we won’t survive. This is not the time to take independents for granted!”

Wheathampstead for Enterprising Business chairperson Sally Wells is keen to highlight the strengths of the villages across the district: “It is not just the towns that offer you a range of shopping opportunities but some of the villages can also tempt you at Christmas.

“In Wheathampstead for example there are fantastic beauty salons, a WI gift shop, a great jeweller as recently seen on Channel 4, a florist and gift shop, a pharmacy as well as great craftsmen who build bespoke pieces of furniture including iPod stands, jewellery boxes etc. The village is always buzzing and that makes you feel that little bit more Christmassy.”

Redbourn High Street has dramatically changed over the last year, with business owners working together creating a vibrant and fun place to shop and meet friends and family. There are new coffee shops and places to eat and the sparkly Christmas lights have really brought a festive feel to the village.

Alka Kota, owner of Crown Pharmacy, said: “The Redbourn Festival kick-started our Christmas and it was great to see so many new faces from surrounding villages and towns, so many people commented how different the High Street was to how they remembered it!

“We recognise the need to compete with the internet and larger shopping centres, hence we have stepped up to the plate and invested heavily to provide a diverse range of services and products on the High Street.

“We have found this challenging as business rates and costs of running a business continues to erode profits and hence we appreciate the support provided by our local community through the festive season.

“At Crown Pharmacy our number one aim is to keep all our patients fit and healthy throughout the year. We are happy to deliver medicine and toiletries to the housebound as we know not everyone has family and friends around them during the festive season.

“Christmas is a key time for all retailers large or small, however local independent retailers go that extra mile to ensure customers are made to feel valued and special, so please continue to support all the businesses in the High Street and I am sure we can go from strength to strength, making Redbourn a fantastic place to live and work.”