Independent retailers across the UK will be hoping to entice Christmas consumers with a shopping challenge over the next month, as the Celebrate an Independent Christmas campaign returns, hoping to boost consumer awareness of local independents, as well as offering festive family fun.

A Christmas Shopping Challenge invites consumers to decorate a 'Christmas tree' by collecting bauble stickers from various participating independent retailers. Once they’ve collected their stickers, they win a Christmas treat – and, in some areas, can even be entered into a festive prize draw.

The challenge is designed to run throughout the Christmas shopping period, although some towns may choose to extend the competition until New Year’s Eve. As an added bonus, the campaign coincides with and heightens the impact of other initiatives such as Small Business Saturday.

“As footfall on the UK’s high streets continues to drop, independent retailers need to do everything they can to keep shoppers coming into town,” says Clare Rayner, The Retail Champion and founder of the Support for Independent Retail campaign.

“Like all of our campaign events, Celebrate an Independent Christmas is all about collaboration between businesses. By working together, independent retailers can remind their local communities that it’s no secret how unique, friendly and fun the high street can be at Christmas time!”

Although consumers aren’t required to buy anything when they collect their stickers, the purpose of the campaign is to highlight the great customer experience they can find in smaller shops – increasing the chances of future visits to make purchases and of recommendations to friends.

Recent BRC/Springboard research shows that high streets and shopping centres continue to suffer, while out-of-town retail parks welcome more and more shoppers. However, Springboard’s Christmas forecast suggests that footfall will lift by 8% across the UK during the festive shopping season (subject to no adverse weather conditions). While high streets are set to welcome more consumers than shopping centres – most likely due to their more diverse offering – all physical platforms will be outperformed by out-of-town stores.

As well as Springboard’s estimate that 45% of festive shoppers would take advantage of Click-and-Collect services, customers continue to show preference for the free parking options and flexible opening hours available from out-of-town retailers.

Clare continues: “We’re hoping that this year, the Christmas shoppers will continue to support their local high streets. Research by CLES and FSB has shown that for every pound spent locally, between 50p to 70p will be put back into the local economy. If that pound is spent out of town, only 5p trickles back.

“Celebrate an Independent Christmas is about educating consumers on where their money goes and how their community could benefit if they choose to support their local indies. Analysts are expecting online shopping to reach record numbers again this Christmas, but we’re hoping that consumers remember the unique gifts and fantastic customer service that you can only get in independent shops.”

Areas getting into the Independent Christmas spirit this year include Buxton Spa, Hertford, Huntingdon, Didsbury and Sidmouth. A full list and more information can be found here.

Clare adds: “Independent retailers who are sadly missing out on our fantastic Christmas campaign need not worry – as soon as 2015 comes along, we’ll be gearing up for our Enjoy an Independent Easter campaign. So watch this space!”