A FAMILY firm with nearly a century-and-a-half of history in Worcester remains committed to the city.

Elt has been a by word for shoes in Worcester and the surrounding area for almost a century and a half.

The family firm was founded by Albert Elt in 1872 when he took over the two businesses of his brothers Harold and David, locating his new store in the Shambles.

In the Victorian tradition Albert had named his son Albert Edward, commonly known as Bert.

With Ada his wife, they already had a shoe store in High Street, Worcester, roughly where River Island stands today.

When father Albert died in 1923, Bert and Ada took on the Shambles business. The premises they bought at that time had been the Old Market Tavern.

Around this time Bert and Ada’s son Roy joined the business - but if Roy had followed his heart’s desire, he would have opened a radio and hifi shop near the Cathedral.

After the Second World War, through Roy’s vision, the fairly mediocre Shambles premises were transformed into a luxurious shoe store. This stood out in a street populated mainly by butchers, fishmongers, green grocers, pubs and two-way traffic.

After seeing more success Roy expanded Elt into a new store in Malvern in 1948, followed by Stratford and Leominster in 1953 and 1966 respectively.

Roy’s son Robin joined the business in 1964, which means to date he has had 53 years at the helm.

Like father like son, Robin saw potential in other towns with a similar trading profile to Worcester and has since opened in Hereford, Ludlow, Pershore, Abergavenny Torquay and Totnes.

Modern retailing requires that you remain alert to changing trading conditions. Witness the current boom in coffee shops, mobile phone shops and hairdressers.

Taking these factors into account, the business has kept pace with trends and at various times has traded in Mealcheapen Street, Lychgate, Reindeer Court only to return to the Shambles in 1998, to its current premises at number 50.

When Robin took on the business, Worcester had no fewer than 16 stand-alone shoe shops. Now there are only five other shoe retailers.

Robin is extremely proud of the Shambles heritage which once included Pratleys China Shop, Maggs Clothing, Thompson’s Fish Store and Sigleys Sweet Shop.

From her early start in the 1920’s Granny Ada stayed as cashier until she was 91.

In 1991, having acquired a degree at Exeter University, Jenny joined the business – the fifth generation and using her skills in IT and finance to take on the buying role from Robin for all nine shops.

Both have even travelled to Europe to seek out the very best in international footwear, to bring to the city.

Robin said: “We would be nowhere over the years had it not been for the loyal, enthusiastic and most capable staff that run the shops with us.

"We hope to perpetuate this family tradition, as one of the longest retail histories in the Midlands.”