INDEPENDENT shop owners are devastated after having to close after 20 years because of a decline in trade.

Frank and Wendy Edwards, both aged 50, of Brimstone Gallery and Gifts, based in Reindeer Court, Worcester, said trade had been hit by online shopping.

Mr Edwards said: “The economy has changed, the game has changed, and the way people shop is not the same anymore.

“Everyone shops online nowadays, leaving independent stores like ours struggling. Trade has been very hard. It has forced us to make this difficult decision.”

The couple took over the shop in 1998. Mrs Edwards named the store after the Brimstone butterfly.

Mrs Edwards said: “This shop has been our life for 20 years. We have served some wonderful people here and made many friends. It is really hard to let go. This has come as a big shock for the customers, they have been in tears. This shop is more of a place to come in and talk. We listen and offer a shoulder to cry on.

“People come to Worcester specifically to visit us. It is a community space. There is a different mood with a small independent store. It is a family run business and we provide an atmosphere and customer service, which is rare to find nowadays. We have held on because we love our shop and the loyal customers. It has kept us going.

“We feel very upset. It is going to be a huge change to our lives.”

However, the couple have said they will continue working from home. Mr Edwards is a picture framer, and will provide a collect and delivery service as well. While Mrs Edwards is a landscape painter and does jewellery repairs.

Mr Edwards added: “Over the 20 years we have been here we have struggled to keep the finances in order. If we rent for another year, it will cripple our finances.

“Small independents are suffering hard and are disappearing from our high streets. After the independent stores are gone, people will realise the importance of them. By then it will be too late.

“When we first arrived in 1998, Reindeer Court was heaving with shops. You were like sardines trying to get through. Every unit was filled with independent shops.

“There are still a few unique shops in Reindeer Court worth a visit.”

The last day of trade at Brimstone Gallery and Gifts will be on Saturday, February 16.

For more information on what the couple provide and their home service, call Mr Edwards on 07786704819.