IT’S a tough world on Britain’s high streets, but 79-year-old Witney businessman Derek Henderson is not lying down on the job.

His family business, The Furnishing Centre, is holding its own in the modern world, despite the economic downturn.

Set up in 1963 in High Street, Witney, the shop has survived vast changes in the way we live, but Mr Henderson says the power of word-of-mouth works wonders.

He said: “It’s all changed since we started, but our customers get to know us and they come back.”

The Oxford Mail has launched a Local Business Accelerators competition offering three months of free advertising to the county’s most promising new businesses.

And Mr Henderson has a word of advice for the winner: “If you use newspaper advertising, you have a better chance if your advert is good and says what it means, tells a story or is a good offer.

“We are on the internet as well, but I get more response from the newspaper. We sell big items — it might be different if I were selling little things that you can put in an envelope.”

The contest is part of a £15m campaign by The Newspaper Society to boost business awareness of the power of local media.

The campaign is backed by Dagons’ Den star Deborah Meaden and Prime Minister and Witney MP David Cameron, who described it as a “brilliant, practical idea” to promote an economic revival.

Mr Henderson said his biggest-spending customers were over 50 and like to buy a local newspaper.

He said: “Newspapers may not have the circulation of the internet, but it depends on who you want to reach.

“I like newspaper adverts because they hang around a bit. If I watch TV, I see an advert and ten seconds later, it’s gone.”

Not only does newspaper advertising help him to tap into the “grey pound”, but he is also a great believer in employment opportunities for the over-50s.

He said: “My manageress is 70 and my ‘young’ manager is 60.”

And he has no plans for his own retirement. “It gets me up in the morning,” he said.

Visit to apply to join the scheme