TRADERS insist Ledbury's treasure trove of independent stores is attracting more people than ever from out of town.

Former mayor Annette Crowe, who owns jewellers Past and Present with husband Steve, has noticed an upsurge in shoppers from other parts of Herefordshire, Worcestershire and even from the big city of Birmingham.

It all adds up to a potential boost for the Ledbury economy with the pursuit of Christmas gifts hotting up over the coming days.

Mrs Crowe said: "This year, in particular, we have noticed a lot more people coming from out of town to do their Christmas shopping.

"You can see them weighed down with bags containing everything they have bought in Ledbury. The town's like a one-stop shop.

"They are saying their own cities or towns have all got the same types of shops.

"Because Ledbury is full of independent traders, they are able to find completely different stock to what they have in city centres for example.

"They think it's lovely coming here because people are really friendly as well.

"People are coming here from Hereford and Worcester but also from places like Birmingham, Kidderminster and Bromsgrove.

"You find some of those from Birmingham might have caravans out here for the summer and they like to come back here to shop."

Mrs Crowe arrived in Ledbury from Birmingham herself 25 years ago and the family started The Homend business 20 years ago.

She continued: "Of course we are always very well supported by local people as well.

"Visitors are full of compliments for Ledbury. We have a chat and a laugh with them.

"We recommend that they go to other places too in the town as we all know each other.

"It's nice that people recognise how special Ledbury is."

Lindsay Jackson, owner of Ledbury Books and Maps in High Street, agreed: "There's such an array of independent shops here. In other places, there are shops boarded up or they are selling the same things.

"At the late-night shopping we had (on December 1) we had people from Droitwich, Painswick and Cheltenham.

"There was so much going on and a real buzz in town. Ledbury became a destination then.

"The Christmas shopping had been slow to start off with and I'm blaming the weather for that.

"Days where it is cold and clear feel more Christmassy but when it's raining people don't want to go out."