News this week that the retailers, Peacocks and Past Times are both under threat of closure after being placed into administration will come as no surprise to the small businesses also struggling to survive in these, the toughest economic conditions most of us can remember. 2012 has come in with all the vengeance which ended 2011 and noone can feel quite safe from the continuing economic ravages

However a light in the darkness has been the community reaction to the Belfast Media Group’s Buy Local campaign which encourages us all to support local traders. This campaign was launched by our group back in October because we believe that small businesses, rooted in our communities, provide the most effective path out of the economic morass in which our readers find themselves.

Small businesses — employing less than 10 people — make up over 95 per cent of our business sector and they’re here for the long term: providing a service and local jobs, investing for the future and giving back to their customers.

That commitment deserves our support and our campaign - based on the proven figures which show that a pound spent locally generates £1.50 in additional spend - has carried the torch for our neighbourhood shopping hubs, such as the Lisburn and Ormeau Roads which have been under enormous pressure.

Our readers have heeded the call to spend their hard-earned money with a local shop or service and have responded en masse to our Buy Local petition with thousands of signatures supporting our efforts presented to Stormont Finance Minister Sammy Wilson this week.

Mr Wilson, who himself has come out to bat for smaller retailers with his decision to expand the small business rates relief scheme funded by a levy on large retailers, acknowledged local communities’ commitment and determination to maintain their businesses.

With that ongoing support and awareness we will continue to take the lead with this worthwhile project but we can only succeed if our readers continue to get involved. The online petition may be closed but the important message remains: Buy Local.