WRITING in this week's community column is Vivien Dance of the Helensburgh and Lomond Chamber of Commerce...

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HELENSBURGH has launched its festive season in traditional November style bringing a feel good atmosphere back to the town. What a difference from last year.

The Christmas lights switch-on and the Winter Festival were back in fine form this year and I want to thank all the volunteers involved for the footfall you generated for local business at these two hugely successful community events.

The Christmas lights will sparkle throughout the town for the next seven weeks and I trust that they will encourage residents and visitors alike to come and enjoy spending in the local shops.

Traditionally the festive season is a time to reflect on where we have been in the year and where we are going in the next – the latter, of course, currently tempered with an element of “please let it be better than the last two years”.

Looking back, this has been a rollercoaster year for local commerce. But the business community in Helensburgh approached all the challenges thrown at it with stoicism and determination to help each other – and as the end of the year nears, we are still here.

READ MORE: Pictures from a magical Christmas weekend at Helensburgh Winter Festival

What happens over the next few weeks will help us determine what kind of year it will be for local businesses in 2022. There is no doubt that the “Shop Local” message has registered with Helensburgh folk, and I thank you for the loyalty you have shown during these unprecedented times. If this continues and our businesses have good festive trading, they will be better equipped to weather the natural downturn in the first two months of the new year.

Don’t forget the new Scotland Loves Local gift card as a new idea for a gift this Christmas. Many local businesses have already registered – if you haven’t, or if you’re a shopper who would like to buy one, go to lovelocal.scot/giftcard to find out more.

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IN my last column I asked the council to show us the colour of its long overdue conservation money to “sort two major eyesores” in the town.

I’m pleased to say this project now has lift-off. It will take years to deliver, but business owners who have an interest in a grant for small repairs or shop front replacement should get off the mark and make contact with the Conservation Area Regeneration Scheme (CARS) officer on 01436 657683 as funds are available.

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AS this article goes to press, another new word – Omicron – fills the airwaves and the media presses the message daily, even hourly, that worse may be to come.

There’s no doubt that people’s confidence is being shaken by the latest news, but keep safe everyone, and let’s go that extra mile to end the year by keeping local commerce alive.