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Britains oldest Ironmonger beaten by the recession (and B&Q) and closes after 480 years

It survived the English Civil War, two world wars, two depressions and three recessions, but after 480 years Britain's oldest hardware store is finally having to hang up its pots and pans.

King Henry VIII was on the throne when Gill & Co became the country's first ironmongers in Oxford in 1530.

The independent shop has been in business ever since, trading six days-a-week through the reigns of 20 monarchs and 76 prime ministers.

But the shop has become the latest victim of the global recession and will close its doors for the final time next month when the current lease on the building runs out.
Gill & Co's owner Victor Hunt, 48, today blamed the recession and larger chains like B&Q and Homebase for the store's demise.
He said: 'Gill's is the oldest ironmonger's in England, so we are coming to the end of an era. 'Sales have declined in recent years and we are moving out before we start to lose money.

'Our client base is the over-45s and some customers are considerably older than that. Inevitably, as time goes by, we lose a few.
'The younger customers seem happier these days to drive to B&Q and other out-of-town stores.'It is such a shame that the shop must close but unfortunately that is the climate small businesses are facing now.'

Gill & Co originally provided ironware for the local residents when it opened its doors almost half-a-millennium ago, and through the centuries it has stocked chimney sweep brushes, scythes, iron nails and hay rakes.

The shop has operated from a number of buildings in Oxford before moving to its current location in the High Street 50 years ago. It has added a lot of everyday household items in a bid to compete with the larger chains. But Mr Hunt, who bought the store ten years ago and also runs a hardware store in Chipping Norton, said that despite the changes customer numbers had gradually fallen.

'A lot of independent stores in Oxford have closed and the city is now full of clothes shops and cafés. Oxford is full of multiples now, which means it ends up offering the same as any other city.'
Graham Jones, of Oxford High Street Association, said: 'Gill's is an Oxford institution. It is a loss not just to the High Street but to the whole of the city centre. 'A lot of the handymen who work for the colleges go in there and they will definitely miss it.'

Michael Read, 62, who has worked at the shop for the past seven years, is one of the three staff to lose their jobs.
He said: 'I'm being made redundant, which is quite tough at my age. All the customers seem very sad to hear we are closing. It's a sad loss.'

Source : Daily Mail Reporter

08 July 2010
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