WE HAVE never seen a year like it. The pandemic has changed life for everyone and had a huge impact on our towns, cities and high streets.

Many of the changes have been happening for years and Covid-19 has simply accelerated them.

The growth in online retail is just one example.

But it is now and in the future as lockdown restrictions are lifted, it is more important than ever to support our business communities, great retailers and superb hospitality venues, right across Basingstoke.

So The Gazette is teaming up with the borough council to launch the Love Our Local Business campaign, in print, online and on social media.

Over the coming weeks we will be giving extensive coverage and exposure to our brilliant local business communities.

This will include a special print edition supplement on local businesses and an online picture gallery launching next month.

There will also be stories, profiles, news and information each week highlight all aspects of great local businesses, high streets and shopping centres.

And it’s all free.

For all businesses, there will be a ‘Star Prize’ draw with winner receiving an ecommerce website and a four month marketing package provided by Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and LOCALiQ, the digital marketing arm of Newsquest, publisher of The Gazette.

A spokesman for Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council said: “We will be working closely with our town centre partners, including Basingstoke Together BID, The Malls and Festival Place to ensure that when the town centre is able to reopen, shoppers can look forward to a safe and enjoyable experience.

“Now more than ever, it is so important to support our local businesses to ensure they are here for years to come and we are pleased to be backing The Gazette’s Love Local campaign.

“While we wait for the restrictions to be eased so we can all enjoy our favourite cafés, restaurants and shops, there are still plenty of ways to shop local.

“To help small and independent traders make the leap into selling their products online, we have launched a new online marketplace, The Borough Basket. I am pleased to say over 40 local businesses have already signed up and you can support these businesses by visiting www.theboroughbasket.co.uk.”

The publisher of The Gazette, Bill Browne, said: “We have learned a great deal in the past year, not least that working together is absolutely vital.

“So much can be achieved through collaboration and supporting and promoting business in these incredibly tough and challenging times.

“Businesses across Basingstoke are the lifeblood of their communities and the city’s economy. We all have a stake in their success. As we wait for the full, vaccination roll out, we want to do our bit to help boost business.”

LOCALiQ advertising director, Laura Bielinski, said: “We are delighted to be working very closely with Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council in this hugely important campaign.

“Together we want to be at the very forefront of backing, promoting and supporting the business community.

“It’s also vital to ensure that shoppers and visitors feel safe, confident and reassured that it is okay to come back to our city centre and district high streets. This is also a huge priority.”

She added businesses in all sectors had worked tirelessly to deal with all the challenges thrown at the them by the pandemic.

For example many have stepped up their digital presence, pivoted towards e-commerce and are now trading successfully both online and on the high street.

“We want to celebrate and highlight the great work they are doing and how crucial they are to all of us.”

Peter Taylor of Hampshire Chamber of Commerce said: “The businesses in Hampshire have felt significant pain of the pandemic. The footfall across the county and communities has dropped greatly as we play our part in overcoming the spread of the virus.

“There are many resilient businesses which have adapted how they offer their goods and services. A number have increased their sales on line and through home delivery.”

He continued: “The future prosperity of the city and the speed at which we can collectively recover from the pandemic depends significantly on the public continuing to support each other, and especially local businesses. “

How you can get involved

We are running a weekly competition for six weeks for readers to win £25 cash to spend supporting their local businesses.

All you have to do is send us a picture of you supporting local businesses to be in with winning. Email entries to editor@basingstokegazette.co.uk with the subject header ‘Love Local Business’.