WITH Christmas looming ever closer, I am sure many of us will have gone online to do at least part of our festive shopping.

With time being so precious in the hectic run-up to the holiday, the attraction of ordering from the comfort of your armchair and having goods delivered to your door is obvious.

But we shouldn’t forget our town centres in the rush to buy via the internet. If we do, we risk losing them in the form we know and love.

We are lucky in this part of the world that our High Streets and market places are still largely doing well despite the challenges they face in our increasingly digital world.

In Bedale on Saturday, I had the honour of switching on the Christmas lights and also judging the best dressed Christmas shop window competition. The winner was Floral Elegance with a special prize for Red House.

It was a lovely festive occasion, organised brilliantly by the town council, the local churches, the Christmas Festival team and the town’s enterprising new business group #BrandBedale.

There was a Christmas market, stalls and displays in Bedale Hall, pop-up shops, free mince pies and mulled wine (courtesy of the town council, Tesco and the Co-op), Bedale Band played a lovely selection of carols and Santa arrived on his sleigh.

In my few words before hitting the button with the Mayor, Cllr Christine Mollard, to illuminate the tree, I spoke about the excellent shop displays I had seen, how hard it had been to judge them and the high quality and range of goods on offer.

With my family and friends, I spent the afternoon in the town and I have to say it put us all in the Christmas mood in a way that sitting in front of a computer screen never could.

The Christmas lights were switched on in Northallerton the following day and very similar events have been held in Richmond, Stokesley, Great Ayton and Leyburn.

These efforts illustrate the tremendous work that is done, often behind the scenes, to keep our High Streets vibrant and rewarding places to visit, not just at Christmas but throughout the year.

I think we can all show our appreciation by doing some if not all of our Christmas shopping locally and in doing so help support our treasured market towns.

By the way, if you want to shop local in Northallerton and want to do so online there is now a way. Earlier this year we saw the launch of Shopappy.com in the town.

It’s an online portal which allows shoppers to order goods from a number of businesses on the High Street and collect them from a central point (the Golden Lion Hotel) later in the day.

So you can browse from the comfort of home, enjoy “click and collect” convenience while supporting also local traders.

It is just another example of how our town centres are working hard to compete in a changing retail world.