WITH headline-grabbing new developments on Oxfordshire's retail scene, independent traders hope this weekend's Small Business Saturday is a timely reminder for people to shop local.

Recent months have seen the opening of the new Westgate Centre and the expansion of Bicester Village and independents say they are feeling the squeeze more than ever.

Saturday has been designated a nationwide awareness-raising day to get people out on to their local high streets and spend their money in smaller, independently run shops.

Councils are backing the initiative, with free parking being offered in Banbury, Bicester and Abingdon whilst Didcot and Wallingford will benefit from free parking schemes on Fridays in the run up to Christmas.

Amanda Suliman-Bell who runs the independent boutique Rainbow and Spoon in Frideswide Square, Oxford, said she has noticed a swell of support for shopping locally in light of big businesses being implicated in tax-avoidance schemes in recent years.

Although there is much goodwill towards the local trader, Ms Suliman-Bell fears for the future of her shop and others, particularly due to a crash in custom in the month after the Westgate opened.

She said: "Oxford is a very independently minded place and making everything the same makes for an uninteresting city.

"The fact that there are shops here that you can't find anywhere else makes it much more attractive to tourists.

"If it continues to be as hard as it has been of late then I fear that a lot of places will really struggle.

"Our shops need initiatives like this now more than ever and much more needs to be done besides."

Ms Suliman-Bell is putting on a special offer for people who shop at the store on Saturday in celebration of the event.

The deputy leader of Cherwell District Council, George Reynolds, said the day is a chance to ‘put the focus’ on the area’s smaller traders and allow them to ‘show what they have to offer.’

But Paul Crockett, who runs the Imagex photographic store in Sheep Street in central Bicester felt the offer of free parking for one day was a 'drop in the ocean' for the run-down high street when trying to compete with the 'destination' shopping centres in the area.

He said: "We have been asking for more free parking so this is a good thing.

“But our high street has a lot of empty shops.

"If only five per cent of people who visit Bicester village came to the high street, we would be bustling.

"There needs to be better co-operation to make the whole of Bicester a shopping destination.”