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Local retailers' online 'fightback'
A group of independent shopkeepers have launched an online shopping fightback with a virtual high street designed to hang on to local customers.
The myhigh.st site opened with 50 shops from Wells and Castle Cary, Somerset, and will continue across the UK as soon as individual high streets can gather a minimum of 10 shopkeepers to participate.
The website's founders claim shoppers can browse and buy the same products they would if they visited the stores in person before choosing between click and connect or home delivery options.
They hope to help retailers reverse the impact of recent bad weather and increasing rents, rates, refuse and parking charges combined with the soaring popularity of online shopping.
Co-founder Loaye Agabani, who owns Junior Toys in Wells and is a former buyer for Marks & Spencer, said: "Whatever the weather, myhigh.st is open 24/7, enabling people to shop on their high street from the comfort of their own home or work.
"Every store is staffed by personable, knowledgeable shopkeepers so that customers can enjoy online the personalised service and sense of community that make our high streets great. Now time-pressed shoppers have more choice and flexibility and can feel good because they're supporting their local shops."
Amanda Laing, owner of Holly Lane fashion boutiques in Wells and Castle Cary, and one of the 50 stores on the website, said: "This is a great new service that works for my customers who are used to shopping online.
"Connecting local, independent shops online means that shoppers can browse their high street or buy online anytime. Myhigh.st could be a lifesaver for local shops."
Wells MP Tessa Munt said: "Wells has a long and proud heritage of independent shops and it is one of the reasons it remains a great attraction for the thousands of visitors who come here every year. Residents have also done a tremendous job of supporting their local independent retailers over the years and continue to do so.
"However, the city's retailers are not immune to the trend of online shopping, which is why I am so supportive of myhigh.st and its efforts to help local retailers help themselves to compete with supermarkets, malls and internet shopping sites."