Independent gift shop owner on why she has made 'heartbreaking' decision to ditch the high street

On the corner of a side road just yards away from one of Yorkshire’s most popular suburban high streets, Beth Elsdon’s gift shop has an enviable location.

Beth Elsdon in her store Walter and May

But the advent of coronavirus and the dramatic shift in consumers’ shopping habits has led the mother-of-two to decide to close the store on Scarcroft Road near York’s Bishopthorpe Road later this month and switch her attention solely to an online enterprise.

Mrs Elsdon admitted she has taken the “heartbreaking” decision to close the Walter and May gift shop largely due to the fact she wants to spend more time with her two children, Jack, 10, and seven-year-old Polly, whose middle names are the inspiration for the business’s own name.

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But the surge in orders via the internet since coronavirus has made that decision final, with online growth this year up a dramatic 747 per cent.

Mrs Elsdon said: “Last year saw about a 10 per cent increase in online business, but this has rocketed this year as so many people have had to stay at home. I felt that I was overseeing two businesses, and while I love running the shop, it was becoming too much to cope with the online orders as well.

“It is heartbreaking, and I’d never rule out a return to the high street. But for now the online side of the business is where I want to focus my attention.”

The shop is set to close on December 19, although Mrs Elsdon stressed there had been significant interest from a range of retailers keen to take on the lease. Bishopthorpe Road has an eclectic mix of traders, from florists and a butcher’s to cafes and restaurants, and was named the winner of the Great British High Street Awards in 2015.