YOUR Star is calling on readers to show support for shops and businesses across the borough in the run up to Christmas.

With retailers under pressure from online shopping and facing competition from neighbouring cities, the local economy needs strong backing, particularly at this time of year.

So we are calling on readers to consider the hundreds of retailers and other businesses right across the borough when choosing where to spend hard-earned money ahead of the festive season.

Such support can help protect jobs, boost the high street and keep money within the local economy.

Council leader David Baines, who took the reins at the town hall six months ago, says he is not blind to the challenges facing the high streets in St Helens and Earlestown and is working on a revised regeneration plan for their futures.

But he is among those urging shoppers to show their support ahead of Christmas, particularly with Small Business Saturday approaching at the end of this month.

He said: “There are hundreds of fantastic shops, stalls, restaurants and bars in our town centres and markets across the borough, from big high street names to booming independents.

“I’m not blind to the challenges high streets everywhere are facing, and regenerating St Helens and Earlestown town centres is a priority for me and for the council.

“But we shouldn’t let the doom-mongers paint a picture of us as a ‘ghost town’– it couldn’t be further from the truth.

“Such negativity does a huge disservice to the businesses currently here and working hard, who the naysayers conveniently ignore.

“Like many others in St Helens – including the huge number of great people I met at the recent Pride of St Helens Business and Community Awards – I’d rather talk our borough up than down. We’ve lots to be proud of, and plenty of great shops for people to enjoy.

“This Christmas, let’s recognise the many fantastic hard-working businesses and individuals offering goods and services in St Helens borough, from St Helens town centre to Newton-le-Willows, Rainford to Rainhill, and everywhere in between, and let’s use them when doing our festive shopping.”

Strong footfall was reported in St Helens last Saturday, with shoppers appearing to respond to the offer of free weekend parking in the run up to Christmas.

Chris O’Dea is among those to have invested heavily in St Helens town centre over the past five years, creating award-winning independent stores.

Mr O’Dea, who is due to hold talks with council chiefs about the town centre’s future, said: “My first thought when we need a job doing is ‘who can we get in locally to do this’ . Sometimes we have to look elsewhere but it is important to keep money in the town. I’d encourage everyone to think about shopping locally.”

On Saturday, November 30, St Helens Christmas lights switch-on will take place in Church Square. A Queen tribute band will be the headline act, with entertainment between noon and 6pm. Earlestown’s switch-on is this Saturday.