INDEPENDENT retailers are relying on the support of their customers throughout the economic gloom.

Jayne Carle of Billie and Gruff on Watergate Street said December takings were down on last year but added: “I am just happy that I am still here.”

She slashed some of her prices by about 20% before Christmas and has taken a further 10-15% off prices for the January sales.

Jayne sources a lot of her clothes, jewellery and accessories locally and makes some items by hand.

Other retailers, who buy in from European countries, are worried about the consequences of a strong euro.

Elspeth Mills, of Elspeth Mills in Watergate Street, and Robbie Nichols of Nichols in Bridge Street Row, both buy women’s clothes from Europe.

Robbie said: “I ordered a lot of the stock when it was 80 cents to £1 – now it’s more like one euro to the pound.”

Elspeth started her sale on December 27, the same time as last year. She is offering 20-25% off the current season’s clothes, 20% off jewellery and up to 80% off last season’s stock.

Elspeth is worried about the effect the closure of high street shops may have.

“People come to Chester for the whole experience. They want to see the independent shops and they want to go to the high street shops as well.”

Susan Hancock of Liberty Bell has not started her sale yet but may offer some 2008 Christmas stock at a lower price in January.

Susan specialises in American gifts and quilting fabrics and will be affected by the pound’s low rate against the dollar.

“I have already bought my stock for this year but the bad exchange rate will have an effect later in the year.”

A Chester shop that won’t be affected by European or American exchange rates is ...and Albert on Eastgate Row. As a Fair Trade shop, they trade mainly with developing countries.

Manager Helen Taffs said: “Before Christmas we did reduce some of our furniture in line with the larger stores and that went quite well.”