'Retail Champion' Clare Rayner is urging independent retailers, town teams, local councils and business improvement districts (BIDs) to work together to create a local Christmas Shopping Challenge to help boost footfall and sales for independent traders during the peak festive season.

From 16th November until Christmas Day, at dates that fit in with other promotional activities for the towns involved, groups of retailers in towns and villages UK-wide are being encouraged to create a fun Christmas Shopping Challenge. The challenge invites shoppers, in particular those with young families, to 'decorate a Christmas tree' by obtaining a bauble sticker from each of the shops they visit. The Christmas tree will feature on the front cover of a local map which will draw attention to all the independent businesses participating in the activity. When the tree is fully decorated, and 10 bauble stickers have been collected from 10 of the participating shops, the family is award a Certificate of Completion and the children are given a gift. They also get to keep their 'Christmas tree'.

This approach to engaging with families to boost footfall was first tried during the Enjoy an Independent Easter activities. Feedback from retailers and families alike was so positive that it seemed fitting to adapt the Celebrate an Independent Christmas campaign activities to be similar.

In addition to the family focus, towns can optionally include a prize draw, aimed at adults. A fully-decorated 'tree', when presented alongside receipts from local businesses up to a specified amount, can qualify a shopper for an array of prizes that the retailers in the town have put together.

This campaign event is part of the year-round Support for Independent Retail campaign that aims to raise awareness of thousands of local retailers, to increase footfall into town and village centres, to help local traders to stay open for business, and to improve collaboration between local businesses and town teams/councils/BIDs.

In addition to the Christmas Shopping Challenge, Clare encourages retailers to "really push the boat" out this Christmas, creating promotions, activities and events that capture the imagination of the local community, reminding people exactly what their local centres have to offer.

“This campaign activity is now in its second year and it couldn’t be more important," says Clare. "Christmas sales can account for anywhere between 30% and 60% of a retailer’s annual turnover. A bad Christmas can mark disaster, as we have seen for the past three Januarys when major players have collapsed into administration. A good Christmas can guarantee survival for the year ahead. Getting customers to divert even a small proportion of their total Christmas shopping budgets to local independent retailers can make the difference between a business staying open or being forced to shut down. Sadly, that’s the harsh reality.”

All those taking part in the Celebrate an Independent Christmas campaign have access to a range of free, downloadable materials and resources, from promotional posters and thank-you cards, to recorded webinars that step participants through exactly what is involved in creating a successful Christmas Shopping Challenge.

Clare continues: “There’s still plenty of time for areas who want to run a Christmas Shopping Challenge to get involved. Anyone interested in creating an event in their area can take a look here to find out more. There are already 26 areas fully confirmed, with many more considering getting involved. I’d love to see that number reach at least 50 by the end of October!

“Anything that boosts positivity and increases camaraderie within a community of traders could be the medicine they need to keep going. Working together to create a Christmas Shopping Challenge can be great fun, and although it’s a really busy time of year it’s worth the investment of time and effort to bring new customers through the door and boost sales.”

To find out which areas have already confirmed that they will be putting on a Christmas Shopping Challenge, click here. Retailers, town teams, local councils and BIDs interested in taking part can stay up to date with all the activities by following @IndieRetailUK on Twitter, by visiting the Facebook page or by subscribing to the newsletter via the website.