THe latest retail figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that retails sales are rising, in a sign that consumer confidence is making a welcome return.

It’s early days but it's promising to see that people are visiting their high streets and shopping, safely, once again.

This is important for the county’s local villages, market towns and city centre, which have endured what is without doubt one of the toughest periods of trade for small businesses in recent history.

The figures show that July retail sales volumes increased by 3.6 per cent when compared with June, and are three per cent above pre-pandemic levels in February.

One clear sign that people are physically shopping once again is the first drop in online sales (down seven per cent on June) since November 2019.

This is inevitable, given the record period of online sales throughout lockdown. Small businesses are nothing if not resilient.

They are also quick to adapt and many, especially in recent months, have either expanded or developed their online presence. This diversification of sales channels means that it’s important for both physical and online sales to remain buoyant.

So, whilst recognising this welcome and positive news, none of us should forget that we are in the midst of the deepest recession on record.

We need the Government to continue to take a proactive and flexible approach to how it will support businesses right across the country. After months of measures to ensure job and business survival, The next stage is about how we can grow once again to aid business and job creation.

The Federation of Small Businesses is calling on the Government to issue the most pro-business, pro-self-employed Budget ever.

One that encourages innovation and helps to brings goods and services to market while keeping the costs of doing business as low as possible, to avoid stifling already struggling businesses.

The green shoots of recovery are visible. These must be nurtured, not taken for granted, to ensure sustainable growth and a strong recovery from this crisis.