There’s no denying, especially in recent times, that online shopping has become a huge market across the globe. From clothing to gadgets, pet supplies to books, you can find anything you need from the comfort of your own home. But have you ever stopped to think where this leaves our towns and high streets?

We’ve all been there. You go away on a mini break, find a quaint little town and wander in and out of the boutiques and unique independent retailers, marvelling at the goods they sell that you just don’t see every day. But how many of us stop to think about what would happen if we stopped supporting them and bought everything we needed online? Or simply picked up everything we needed from a supermarket with the weekly shop?

There are so many reasons to shop locally. Firstly, and arguably the most important, is supporting your local economy. The ‘Totally Locally’ campaign shared last year that if every adult spent £5 per week in a local, independent retailer instead of a chain store, this would boost the economy by £13.5 billion over the year. It could be picking up that book you’ve wanted to read for ages in your local book retailer instead of online, grabbing a coffee from a local coffee shop or choosing a local restaurant rather than a national chain, but it all adds up to a strong economic future.

There’s also the unique nature of independent retailers. So many of our local shops sell beautiful, one off gifts that you just don’t find in larger stores, making the gifts you buy so much more personal. What is also unique is the shopping experience. Take Drake’s the Bookshop in Stockton for example. I could browse online, order a book and give it a try. But by going into Drake’s, owned and lovingly managed by Richard and Mel Drake, not only am I supporting a local business, I am also treating myself to a shopping experience like no other. I can chat to the owners about what I’ve read and enjoyed, get recommendations and leave feeling fulfilled that I have made a great purchase and that my money has gone to supporting a local family business.

Finally, and not to be forgotten, is the people. By shopping local, you are supporting an entrepreneur who has been brave enough to trust in their own idea and work hard for it to become a reality. In a very important way, you are thanking them for creating jobs, filling our high streets with vibrancy, supporting our towns and making a difference to our economy. These business owners not only help to build our communities, but they help to build our town’s identities by offering a shopping experience that isn’t available online or in another area, making them a fantastic place to live and work.

So next time you need a gift, a coffee, or whatever it may be, just consider stepping out of your front door, finding a local retailer and helping support our towns.