ST MARGARETS is bucking the recession - all of its 55 shops are open for business.

The most recent arrival, haberdashery shop Mrs Moon, this week moved in to 41 Crown Street, which had been empty for two years.

In January about 15 per cent of the area's shops were vacant, so the St Margarets Traders' Association joined forces with Richmond Council to launch a range of initiatives to encourage residents to shop locally - and it seems to have worked.

The traders' association chairman, Simon Chapman, said he hoped people would continue to shop locally over Christmas and explore the unique shops on their doorstep.

He said: "We are 55 independent businesses working together and we believe we have so many specialist shops and services that we wanted to highlight what's here."

The association received matched funding from the council, worth £4,000, to pay for St Margarets-branded shopping bags, a magazine and promotional events during the year, including a summer and Christmas fair.

The council's businesses champion, Geoff Acton, said: "This is a good example of the council working with the community to achieve tangible results, which make a difference for people in our towns and villages. I'm pleased to say the village is now a busier and more attractive place for people to visit. The message is that the help is there for all parts of the borough.

"We've just given nearly £5,000 to help promote business in Whitton and I've launched a set of grants to make our town centres look more presentable."