A much-loved gift shop in Northampton is closing its doors after a decline in shoppers, increased parking charges and high business rates.
Megan Eyles took over ownership of Peppertrees, in the Ridings Arcade, back in 2016, and after investing her hard-earned savings she expanded the shop to make room for extra stock.
But yesterday morning (Monday) she issued a heartfelt statement on social media saying she is now closing the store due to "outgoing costs beyond control" and "footfall in the town centre declining" along with other factors.
Speaking to the Chronicle & Echo Megan, of Abington, said: "Of course I’m disappointed that it’s ended but for me, personally, it had to happen.
"My biggest worry was people thinking I had failed but when talking to people it became clear that people didn’t think that at all – in fact they said that identifying that this was the right time to close was more of a credit and it shows more about me as a person."
This week marks 25-year-old Megan's last week as manager of the gift shop. Her mum is set to step in to run the store during it's final weeks to May 31.
Megan, who has now got a new job, was given the option to take over ownership of Peppertrees in 2016 after she worked on the shop floor for two years prior, and invested her savings into making the shop her own.
She has always strived to keep the shop open as she believes Peppertrees has always been a core town centre shop which offers ‘in-depth knowledge’ about its stock.
She added: "It’s been hard work. People say, 'it must be nice to be your own boss because you decide what you want to do and you can have time off' but you don’t.
"If you leave early or have a day off you’re still working and thinking about your business - sleepless nights when trade isn’t good, whether your next pay cheque will come, the constant worry, it all adds up.
"Independent shops are people’s lives. We’ve put our own money, hours and time into providing unique places for shoppers to visit. The amount of times I’ve listened to conversations and watched people searching on their phones to get it cheaper elsewhere is endless. But independents aren’t always more expensive when you add in postage costs, and you can walk away with it the same day."
Megan also cited a rise in parking charges in Northampton town centre as becoming a problem for trade as well as eye-watering bills. But despite the increasing popularity of online shopping, there are still customers who like to shop on their doorsteps.
"Yes, online retail is a factor but I still hear people saying that they like to see what they are buying in person rather than online," Megan said.
"The costs of running a bricks and mortar shop is extortionate, plus business rates."
Megan pays over £30,000 in rent and business rates alone each year, and has to cover electricity bills, new stock, staff wages and packaging on top.
"I think landlords need to be more flexible with rent if they want reduce the amount of vacant units in the town.
"Also rising parking charges are eventually going to push people away. If you haven’t got the variety of shops to entice people they’ll go elsewhere where parking charges are more reasonable for what that particular place has to offer."
The closing down sale starts on Tuesday, April 23 where all stock will be sold at a 50 per cent discount before it closes finally at the end of May.