This week’s column is written by Michael Hallam from The Ethical Small Traders Association (ESTA).
“Lancaster is lucky to have a thriving independent sector. Local brands fill well over half of the 400+ shops in our city centre.
“However, online shopping trends and other cultural factors put our local independent shops under pressure.
“In order to help level the playing field, a group of local business men and women and organisations are busy working to give our local businesses an extra edge.
“They have started creating and promoting a number of business support tools that include general business advice, smarter fee-free online payment methods, two local discount schemes and a local food economy support project.
“So what are these support services doing?
“Firstly, a new free mobile payment app has been designed with the support of local high streets in mind.
“It’s called Droplet (dropletpay.com), and can be downloaded for free by customers and retailers.
“The great thing about Droplet is the lack of transaction charges that are usually linked with non-cash payments.
“2015 has also seen the launch of two money saving services.
“Jack Knight launched ‘Independent Lancaster’ (www.independent-lancaster.co.uk), which gives our local independent businesses a boost with a loyalty card.
“Jack currently has over 50 local retailers signed up to the service.
“Lancaster Unlimited, working on behalf of the Lancaster Business Improvement District, has also launched Love Local Love Lancaster, offering further bargains and discounts to shoppers (www.lancasterunlimited.org.uk/Love-Local-Love-Lancaster).
“Local community organisation LESS has also begun a three year project to encourage members of the public and local food businesses to buy more locally produced food and, in doing so, help strengthen our local food economy.
You can support the project by signing up to LESS’s local food pledge and source 30 per cent of your produce locally for three months.
“Meanwhile. Path42 is offering a free hot-desking day on Wednesday, April 22 from 10am-3pm in the upstairs suite of the Borough pub on Dalton Square.
“The event aims to give local freelancers a chance to meet up and work together.
“These are just some of the grass roots schemes happening in our city, aiming to support our local businesses.
“So do get involved and help the money in your pocket go a little further.