Last night our local paper reported that over 17% of shops are standing empty in Bradford. That's worse than both Yorkshire as a whole (15%) or the rest of the country (1 in 10).
Things are rather better in Saltaire with most shops occupied, although sadly some change hands rather frequently. The newly formed Saltaire Traders' Association is doing it's best to encourage people to shop locally this Christmas and with all the discussion in the news about the big multi nationals and their tax affairs many people are thinking hard about where to spend their money.
There's no doubt that sitting down after tea with a list and a laptop is a very stress free way to tackle the Christmas shopping and we've probably all done it. But nowhere has the old adage "Use it or lose it" rang truer than the High Street.
I tried to put my principals into action on Saturday and set off into Saltaire with a shopping list, a limited budget and a six year old in tow. By lunchtime we'd had coffee and cake with friends, bought fresh fish for tea from the fabulous Orange Grove, spotted a doll's pram for only £2 (it was top of Santa's list) AND bought 7 other Christmas presents for less than fifty quid. I felt like a 1950's housewife or a Frenchwoman as I trotted around Salts Mill, the Local Produce Market, a Craft Fair and all the independant shops with my basket.
So go on - try it. Shop local. It's fun, it helps keep your town or village thriving and different and it needn't bust your budget.
And finally a plea for hidden businesses like our own. Skyware Press is a small home based publisher of walk guide books. We don't have visible presence but we do have an online shop. Order directly from us and you'll support a local business not a multi national giant.