The past year has been a testing one for Hereford shopkeepers. The combined impact of the High Town refurbishment and the road works on and around the bridge has been severe. Without question, significant numbers of our normal customers have been deterred from visiting the city, preferring to drive long distances to other venues, rather than sit steaming in traffic jams or run the gauntlet of the pneumatic drills.

I know this because people have told me so. We at Chadds, like so many other Hereford shops, can see it in our sales figures, even to this day. And anyone walking the streets will note how quiet it often is, compared with other years.

But the disruption is now over. The High Town work is complete and the area is looking considerably better than before. Those who travel in from the south, meanwhile, assure me that the traffic is much, much easier than it was even a month ago. It looks as if the effort put into phasing the lights has at last paid off, and journey times are often shorter than they were before the road works started.

Meanwhile, we have had the excellent news of Marks and Spencer's commitment to the city, in the form of a major refurbishment of their premises. We at Chadds have invested heavily in improvements to our store in recent months. And no doubt others are doing the same.

So perhaps I can use your pages to send out a message of encouragement to all those shoppers who have felt the need to take their business elsewhere in recent months. The road misery of 2006 is now history. Hereford retail is firmly on the up. So why not give us another try. We may not be perfect, but we have so much to offer. With your renewed support, Hereford can go from strength to strength, and serve your needs all the better.

Peter Butt, Managing Director, Chadds of Hereford.