Twenty-one shops and businesses across Kirklees are flying the flag for independent retailers as they welcome back customers after lockdown.

Kirklees Council’s Welcome Back campaign has made social media stars out of local traders who were finally able to lift their shutters again last week.

The promotional campaign, which also includes posters on lampposts and adverts on the back of buses, has been supported by the Reopening High Streets Safely Fund, part of the European Regional Development Fund.

To encourage people to return to the high street the council is helping promote the wide range of businesses in town centres across the district.

Those taking part include bookshop Read in Holmfirth and The Antiques Warehouse in Slaithwaite. There’s several in Huddersfield town centre including Diversions gift shop in the Imperial Arcade, Vinyl Tap in John William Street, Ka-Pow Comics in St Peter’s Street, Kwas Wine Shop in Viaduct Street, Owen Scott Bespoke tailors in King Street, Mackinley’s Caribbean and African Foodstore in Byram Street and The Clock House café in Hammonds Yard.

Louise Ashmore, who runs Read with husband James, said: “It’s a joy to be back open again and it’s great to be able to help promote independent businesses, not just in Holmfirth but across Kirklees. I think people are now more receptive when it comes to visiting other local towns not just their own.”

The couple, who were both teachers, opened the shop two years ago and have built up a loyal customer base.

“It was really positive last week and we are so relieved to be back,” said Louise. “People have gone the extra mile to order from us in lockdown but it’s so nice to see customers back in the shop so we can chat and make recommendations.

“The week days last week were busy like Saturdays. We don’t have the biggest shop and we were a little worried we might not have enough space but people have been really good and really patient and waited when necessary.

“This week has been quieter but we are still doing good trade.”

Louise didn’t realise until a few days ago that the Welcome Back campaign would see posters on buses.

“We were driving into Holmfirth the other day and I turned round and saw myself on the back of a bus,” she said. “Fortunately, I’m wearing a mask so no-one knows it’s me!”

Gareth Hughes, of Diversions, said he was proud to promote Huddersfield and would always defend the town on social media.

“I was born and bred in Huddersfield and there’s a lot to be positive about,” he said. “We have some very loyal customers and I always treat my customers as friends.”

Paul Thornton at Ka-Pow Comics

Paul Thornton, who runs Ka-Pow Comics, said his business was able to tick over online so there was “no real panic” but he was delighted to see his customers face-to-face again.

“We sell on eBay and much of what we sell can be put in an envelope and posted out but that’s probably the least fun part of the job,” said Paul.

“We also sell action figures, board games and other items that can’t be sent out and we’ve had some good sales since we re-opened. People were obviously saving up.”

Paul is hoping for another boost after payday at the end of the month.

“The big chain stores will do well regardless but the small independents need the support,” he added.

For the full list of traders taking part go to the Kirklees Council website.