INDEPENDENT business bosses across the borough are urging people to shop locally when non-essential retail reopens on Wednesday.

Smaller stores have been battered by one of their toughest trading years – with coronavirus restrictions severely impacting custom for almost three quarters of 2020.

Although many will be able to reopen for business when the national lockdown is over, they’ve been closed for part of their usual Christmas trade season – a vital time of the year.

Anne Scott, who runs Annalise Candles with best friend Lisa Fearnley, has found the last few months very difficult.

She said: “It’s been really tough – but it’s the same for everyone. November is usually one of the busiest times leading up to Christmas. We’ve just got to make the most of the last few weeks and hope people haven’t already done a lot of their shopping at the bigger stores.

“It doesn’t seem right that big garden centres and supermarkets can sell the same things we do whilst we have to close.”

The pair have been selling some stock to loyal customers online through lockdown.

Mother and daughter duo Mel Andrews and Brenda Owen, who run Sentiments in Horwich, have also been selling some of their products online.

Mrs Andrews said: “It’s horrific really for any business, especially small businesses to be closed at this time.

“We’re grateful that we’ve got a bit of a reprieve over Christmas, it’s more than the hospitality industry has been given. When you work for yourself you pride yourself on it and you want to go the extra mile.

“We’re hoping people will come and shop local and stay loyal – it’s devastating to see all the fantastic businesses in Horwich suffering. We’re very grateful for all the support.”

The pair specialise in personal cards for all occasions.

Bridie Tonge, who owns Fine Yarns, has been through a similar struggle, and is hoping to see people head to her shop for gifts for craft lovers.

She said: “I’m on the verge of tears all the time. I’ve got a grown-up family and I haven’t seen them all since July. It’s been really hard, but we just try to keep going."

"My shop does a variety of things, we have workshops, classes, and groups where we swap advice, I sell wool, and just generally enjoy people’s company."

“My ladies are all cooped up so I’ve been delivering supplies and plants to them whilst they’ve been shielding away. I like to help out where I can and keep my little shop going for the community.”

The shop has stocked up on crafting boxes – a complete kit that will make a good gift for people of any ability who enjoy knitting, crochet, or felting.

Bolton will be in tier 3 when the national lockdown ends, meaning retail can reopen but hospitality is closed, with the exception of takeaway, drive-through and delivery.