MP WRITES: Support our shops

I should imagine that you are gearing up to buying your presents for Christmas by now.

People seem to come into two extremes: those who are meticulously organised and can tell everyone that they wrapped up their presents by Boxing Day the previous year, or there are those who are scrambling around in a mad panic at the last possible minute trying to swipe the final piece of stock in the shop.

I definitely fall into the latter category. Given that the only present I actually have to buy myself is for my wife and she does absolutely everything else, I get away with it.

The manner in which people buy their presents is changing fast.

In just a few short years, online retail has increased, to the point where many people in Hartlepool will buy all their Christmas presents, possibly even their food for Christmas, online.

This is having a real impact on traditional high streets and local shops, many of whom will rely upon Christmas and the seasonal takings to keep them going throughout the year.

Add into the mix general economic difficulties and the cost of living crisis, with average working people a massive £1,600 a year worse off than they were in 2010, as well as business rates that continue to rise, and you can see why small retailers are struggling.

I’ve written previously regarding how important I think having a wide variety of retailers in Hartlepool is.

They increase choice and often provide a local distinctiveness which is difficult to get in other shops.

Look at Morrell’s pork pies on York Road, just one of our homegrown businesses, who produce a fantastic local product that is unique to our town and which gives a flavour as to what Hartlepool is about.

Our town is filled with local retailers equally as good and distinct to our area.

It is important to showcase the great work of and contribution made by small businesses.

That is why I am supporting Small Business Saturday.

This initiative started in the United States a couple of years ago, on one of the busiest shopping days of the year, the first Saturday of December.

Its aim is to highlight the importance of small retailers and to encourage shoppers to use them whilst out buying for Christmas. Chuka Umunna, the Shadow Secretary for Business, visited the States and saw the effect Small Business Saturday was having. He was determined to bring it over to this country.

Small Business Saturday will take place this coming Saturday and there are events all over the country, including Hartlepool.

There is a Christmas Market in Church Square which started yesterday and will run until Saturday, to showcase the work of local independent traders.

I hope that you will use the opportunity of Small Business Saturday to frequent one of the town’s small retailers and provide them with your custom.

Hartlepool Borough Council have also made parking in the town centre free this coming Saturday and the two following Saturdays until Christmas, to encourage us all to stay and shop in Hartlepool.

On its own, Small Business Saturday will of course not save the high street or small businesses.

Changing technology, different customer habits and a lack of money in people’s pockets are making trading increasingly difficult.

However, I hope you use Small Business Saturday to show your support for the great small retailers that we have in our town.