A FLORIST who says Brexit forced her to shut her Witney town centre store has urged shoppers to continue supporting independent businesses.

Rosa Ashby had run Rosa Flowers in Wesley Walk for 22 years, but closed the store on Monday due to spiralling costs.

Mrs Ashby revealed Brexit uncertainty and a rise in the price of imported flowers since the 2016 referendum was the 'last straw' for the company.

But she added that more shoppers were now buying their flowers from supermarkets and claimed the public was not fulfilling its 'responsibility' to support independent shops.

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She said: "The public aren't supporting independent shops the way they should be. They're also at fault.

“Witney’s changed - there’s so many national shops, when we came in things were different.

“Now it’s harder to trade in every way possible.

“We’ve tried our best to keep going and had a good Mother’s Day. We’re tired and we need a break.”

Rosa Flowers had become a staple of Witney town centre, but Mrs Ashby revealed the decision to close had been 'a couple of months' in the making.

Rising rents, business rates and overheads meant she and her husband and co-director, Jim, had faced an 'uphill struggle' for the last five years.

But Brexit uncertainty posed another challenge, with Mrs Ashby saying back in October that she had ‘no concept’ of what she would do when Britain left the EU.

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The store imported all its flowers from the Netherlands, but the Witney resident said prices had risen by a fifth since the referendum.

And with Britain failing to leave by the scheduled departure date of March 29 this year, Mrs Ashby, who supports a People's Vote on Brexit, fears costs are likely to increase further.

She said: “Prices have already started to increase - the more the government stalls, the more people will be apprehensive over Brexit.

“People say ‘buy flowers in this country’, but I can’t, all we’re growing are tulips. I can’t stock flowers in one or two varieties.

“If or when we do leave, tariffs will go in and that will put up the prices even more.

“Brexit is what broke our back. It’s the last straw.”

Oxford Mail:

Mrs Ashby and her husband spent all of Sunday and yesterday morning clearing the store, adding 'a lot of people came in to say sorry we're leaving'.

Ben Molyneaux, founder of business networking organisations The Oxfordshire Project and Mahwe, works with dozens of small businesses across the county.

The Madley Park resident revealed some companies he works with were also suffering from Brexit uncertainty.

He said: “The underlying factor is the vast majority seem to be remainers.

“They’re all grinding their teeth thinking 'this is ridiculous'. People have been very frustrated.

“We work with a travel agent who has been clearly affected because people aren’t booking holidays, and an architect who wants people to keep spending money because otherwise it’ll bring on a recession.

“I’m not hearing anyone saying they’re doing well."

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The closure of Rosa Flowers means three florists remain in Witney: Flower NV, based in Newland, Classic Flowers on Corn Street and Jason's Flowers, on Witney High Street.

The latter store is based yards from Wesley Walk and imports flowers from the Netherlands and France.

A florist assistant at Jason’s Flowers, who wished only to be known as Natalie, revealed the shop had also been hit by problems with imports.

She said: “We had similar issues around Mother’s Day. It was quite difficult to get certain stock in on time.

“I’ve definitely noticed a change in recent months, but I’d say we’re doing alright.”

Witney Chamber of Commerce was contacted for comment but did not respond.