As we progress through what will no doubt continue to be one of the most challenging years for the commercial sector in decades, the challenges of being an independent trader do not seem to be showing signs of receding.

Even the summer weather has been unkind to our businesses, resulting in reduced footfall on many days for retailers and an impediment to tradesmen completing outdoor projects.

Add this to flatlining of the economy, price hikes, staggering interest rates and below inflation pay settlements and it is not surprising that many independent traders are extremely anxious about their livelihoods.

However, given that this is the reality of where we are as we head into autumn and winter, we do at least have the benefit of being a town that has only a small number of the national chains who are ruthlessly pulling out of town centre locations.

Boots is the latest to do this. But, provided we all play our part and adopt the approach towards our independent sector of “use them or lose them” we can all help to secure the viability of our business community.

Thank you to everyone who has adopted the “Shop Local” mantra, even where it has meant changing shopping patterns. Keep up the good work.

Helensburgh’s success in retaining its viability has not gone unnoticed, and recently I was asked to speak to a gathering of business leaders in Glasgow about the underlying reasons for the town’s apparent resilience.

It was easy to take as my theme for the presentation 'Small Retailers, Big Impact', and relate many experiences of local traders going the extra mile in their business, supported by an outstanding community voluntary sector that plays a major part in the town’s success.

The Chamber will be hosting a town visit in the next month for some of these businesses leaders who are looking to invest in the town, and maybe we can encourage them to fill some of the growing number of empty premises and expand Helensburgh’s commercial offering.

It was interesting to note though that, without exception, the group all stated it would be sheer folly for Helensburgh to blight its seafront with anything but community space and leisure provision. So it was reassuring to read that Helensburgh Community Council is working with Argyll and Bute Council to honour the terms of the Master Plan for the seafront development and will secure community space that will benefit all age groups.

Business owners look forward to being able to support such a project in the weeks ahead.