We have never seen a year like it. The pandemic has changed life for everyone and had a huge impact on our towns, cities and high streets.

Many of the changes have been happening for years and COVID-19 has simply accelerated them. The growth in online retail is just one example.

So it is now more important than ever to support our business communities, great retailers and superb hospitality venues, right across Southampton, from the vibrant city centre to the diverse district high streets.

Now the Daily Echo is teaming up with the city council and Go Southampton to launch the Love Local Business campaign, in print, online and on social media.

Over the coming weeks we will giving extensive coverage and exposure to our brilliant local business communities.

This will include a special print edition supplement on local businesses and on-line picture gallery launching on February 22.

There will also be stories, profiles, news and information each week highlight all aspects of great local businesses, high streets and shopping centres.

And it’s all free.

For all businesses, there will be a ‘Star Prize’ draw with winner receiving an e-commerce website and a four month marketing package provided by Southampton City Council and LOCALiQ, the digital marketing arm of Newsquest, publisher of the Daily Echo.

Editor of the Echo, Gordon Sutter, said: “We have learned a great deal in the past year, not least that working together is absolutely vital.

“So much can be achieved through collaboration and supporting and promoting business in these incredibly tough and challenging times.

“Businesses all across Southampton are the lifeblood of their communities and the city’s economy.

"We all have a stake in their success. As we wait for the full vaccination roll out, we want to do our bit through this great campaign to help boost business.”

LOCALiQ advertising director, Laura Bielinski, said: “We are delighted to be working very closely with Southampton City Council and Go Southampton on Love Local Business.

“Together we want to be at the very forefront of promoting and supporting the business community.

“It’s also vital to ensure that shoppers and visitors feel safe, confident and reassured that it is okay to come back to our city centre and district high streets. This is a huge priority.”

Businesses in all sectors have worked tirelessly to deal with all the challenges thrown at them by the pandemic.

Many have stepped up their digital presence, pivoted towards e-commerce and are now trading successfully both online and on the high street.

“We want to celebrate and highlight the great work they are doing and how crucial they are to all of us," added Laura.

Peter Taylor, chair of the leadership team at Southampton Chamber of Commerce said: "Southampton has felt the pain of the pandemic. The footfall to the city centre and the high streets of the neighbourhoods in the city has fallen as we are required to stay at home.

"There are many resilient businesses which have adapted how they offer their goods and services. A number have increased their sales on line and through home delivery. The Love Local Business campaign is an excellent initiative and it will really make a difference."