Businesses across Bolton are urging people to shop local this Christmas and enjoy an unrivalled service rather than opening up the laptop.

Store owners say shopping locally has never been more important with more people now choosing to shop online.

Independent businesses have launched a number of initiative including a loyalty card scheme Hello Horwich as a way to attract shoppers into town.

Melanie Andrews who runs the gift shop Sentiments in Horwich, says that the biggest competitors for small and independent businesses are supermarkets and online shopping.

She added: “We are up against that, so if we can have people supporting us all year, and especially at Christmas, it makes a huge difference.

The Bolton News: Melanie Andrews with her mum Brenda OwenMelanie Andrews with her mum Brenda Owen (Image: Public)

“I think the biggest thing for us is trying to keep things new and bring new products in and keep things interesting.

“Keep supporting us because we appreciate it so much.

“As a small business I work in the shop by myself, and my mum comes and helps sometimes, but most of time I am also doing the social media, deliveries, and ordering.

“Without people supporting us, we wouldn’t have a job.”

Melanie's mum Brenda Owen originally started the business over 16 years ago, and often comes to help out.

Maxine Smith – who has owned Flowersmiths for 10 years – says that having  a thriving high street is important because of how it benefits everyone.

The Bolton News: Maxine Smith in the middle with the Flowersmiths teamMaxine Smith in the middle with the Flowersmiths team (Image: Public)She said: “We already have a thriving high street, with independent shops, and we offer something that big chains and retail parks can’t.

“We have our regular customers, and we know what they like, and know everything about their families, and where they have been on their holidays.

“We also don’t have the big queues, so we have more time to spend with the customer.”

Lucy Prideaux has run Astley Bridge based Jollypops Traditional Sweet Shop for 12 years, and says that it has been word of mouth that has helped keep her business going for this long.

She said: "We try and keep the prices as low as possible.

"For independent and small businesses its a personal thing.

"It's that one to one customer service."

The Bolton News: Lucy also says that the majority of her clients are the same as the ones she had when she first started.

And she says that the key thing has been connecting with other local businesses in the area.

She added: "There are a few of us that have a good relationship.

"I don't want people to forget about the small businesses who add that personal touch."

Melanie said: "I just want to say a huge thank you to all who have supported us this Christmas and throughout the year.

"And we both wish you all a wonderful Christmas and send our very best wishes for 2024."

Some businesses on Horwich’s  high street will be open until 7.30pm today ( Tuesday), including Sentiments.

Sentiments is also open from 8.30am until around 2pm on Christmas Eve, as well as Flowersmiths, Ruby Rose, and more.

Horwich town centre initially trialled a late-night shopping scheme in April to boost trade.

Businesses were busy during the trial, with shopkeepers saying that it went well.

But when they tried the late-night shopping again in May, traders described the turnout as ‘poor’, although it has proved successful during the Christmas period.

The loyalty scheme gives the holder access to exclusive offers in participating stores across the town, with some offering discounts and others offering a free item with purchases.

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