HELP Gwent independent traders survive the recession by supporting our Buy Local campaign.

Today is July 4, which we are dubbing Gwent independents day, and we need you to go out and support your local small shops, restaurants, pubs, markets and farm shops in the easiest way possible – by spending your money with them.

The aim of our campaign is to highlight the great businesses we have throughout Gwent – and encourage you to help keep them alive.

It is these independent businesses, the local corner shop or café, the local butcher or baker, that are the lifeblood of many high streets and towns centres throughout Gwent.

Many are family-owned and many have been in operation for decades.

But all are facing tough times as the recession takes hold.

We want to hear from you, so tell us why you like to buy local.

Tell us about your favourite local business and why you use it.

You can give us your recommendations by filling in this form.

What you tell us will form the basis of a directory of the best Buy Local sites across Gwent, which we’ll publish in the paper and on our website.

Over the next few weeks we’ll focus on local independent traders across Gwent and on the environmental benefits of buying local.

There will also be special offers for our readers from businesses taking part in our campaign.

Gareth Beer, chief executive of Newport Unlimited, said: “Supporting locally owned businesses is a key part of Newport’s regeneration and we whole-heartedly support this initiative by the South Wales Argus.

“It is vital that the Newport community makes the most of the independent shops, restaurants and bars which the city has to offer in order for them to flourish and thrive. Local, independent establishments like The Waterloo Hotel, Gemelli’s and the Chandlery have developed reputations for their excellence and quality of food and service and are helping make Newport’s hospitality distinctive throughout the region.

“We believe that Newport is the first city in Wales to prepare a strategy which focuses on the potential of the food and drink sector for improving the quality of place for residents and the experience of its visitors.”

Gwent’s largest furnishing company is also among those supporting our campaign.

Martyn Sheppard, managing director at George Street Furnishers, Newport, said: “During the past 60 years we have been very well supported by the local community.

“It is very important for local people to support their local businesses and keep them going.

“I strongly endorse this Argus campaign as local shops are the lifeblood of a community but cannot survive without our support.”

Councillor Matthew Evans, leader of Newport City Council: “We have fine shops both in the city centre and in our neighbourhoods.

“A survey of independent shops in the city centre last year named them as the best in the UK.

“Our historic indoor market is packed with local traders and shoppers can find a wide range of goods under one roof, including excellent food and produce.

“Together, we are investing around £4 million in the city centre for various initiatives and projects, including a proposed £750,000 revamp of the market and a free parking offer.

“Others also need to play their part. For example, we would appeal to landlords to consider the rents they charge businesses – a reduced rent from an open shop is surely better than no rent from an empty one.”

EDITORIAL COMMENT: Get behind local traders

TODAY we are asking our readers to think about sustainability. But not the sustainability of the environment, but of their local traders.

We are living through an era of almost unprecedented hardship for shop owners, publicans, eating houses, etc, and many are going to the wall every day.

It is easy to see the reasons why. The internet provides cheaper alternatives to many goods available in local shops. The giant supermarkets like Tesco and Asda deal in such bulk that they undercut the corner shop or the milkman.

And so hard is the recession hitting that many people have simply had to lower their spending on luxury goods, drinking and dining out.

We are not trying to be unrealistic. We realise that people do not have much money and they have to eke it out.

And we know that some shopkeepers don’t make as much effort as they should to attract customers and make them feel appreciated.

However, the local trader is an integral part of a local community, whether that be city, town, village or district.

They play just as big a role in their own way as the local school or doctor. When they close down they are rarely replaced and our society suffers as a result.

So we are appealing to our readers to help their traders get through this awful recession.

Many have been running their businesses for years and some took over from their forefathers.

Many have served their communities well, and this is an opportunity for you to show that you appreciate them and, simply by buying locally instead of in the supermarket, are willing to help them stay in business.