INDEPENDENT retailers in the Huntingdon area are being offered the chance of a series of free Government-sponsored workshops to help them stand shoulder-to-shoulder with larger stores in the competition for Christmas customers. The series of four Monday evening workshops, each lasting for two hours and including refreshments, will take place in central Huntingdon from September 22 to October 13. Run by Ermine Business Park-based Opps Business Development and backed by the Huntingdon Town Partnership, which has provided free training for the last five years, the events aim to help traders retain the loyalty of their established customer and attract new ones. With town centre retailers reporting buoyant sales over the summer as high fuel costs discouraged shoppers from making journeys to centres such as Cambridge, Peterborough and Bedford, this seems an appropriate time to develop local retail skills. The workshops will provide one-to-one support, delivering training for business-owners and their employees towards Level 2 of the Retail Skills NVQ, using a portfolio of work to demonstrate they have achieved the skills necessary to support a retail outlet. The four events will also give small outlets the chance to network with each other and collaborate to maximise their sales. Katy Sismore, Huntingdon Town Manager, said: "With Christmas on the horizon, HTP is pleased to be working with the team at Opps to provide these workshops, focusing on customer service, presentation of stock, selling and security, to help the retailers in Huntingdon raise their game even higher and compete with the best. "The credit crunch is focusing everyone's mind, and a fresh look at stock and presentation could make a huge difference." INFORMATION: Traders wishing to take part should contact Barbara Seymour at Opps on 01480 415936 or e-mail Barbara@oppsdevelopments.com. Refreshments are provided at each of the workshops.