A SHOPKEEPER who has been a familiar face on the high street of Bishop Auckland for decades is preparing to draw the curtain on his retail career.

Joe Walters is a retailer at heart and retirement – at the age of 72 – comes at just the right time as he favours traditional face-to-face customer service over the current move towards online shopping.

Mr Walters, from Shildon, and his wife Mary, originally from Spennymoor, used to live in Nottingham but decided to move back to the region to start the Choice Linen homeware business, on Newgate Street, in 1985.

Mr Walters said: “I worked as a sales director for a national company when I lived in Nottingham.

“Then my wife Mary and I decided to come home and start our own business. We started from scratch. Retail is what I do, and I’ve been in textiles for most of my life, so it felt natural to do this.”

The Northern Echo:

Joe Walters and employee Sandra Beaumont

Mr Walters said he and colleagues have always worked hard to maintain traditional values and adapt to changes in homeware fashions through the 1980s and 1990s to today– earning them a good reputation and loyal customer-base.

He said: “I’m retiring for numerous reasons. First of all, my age, but also, I feel that retail is changing.

“I have no interest in internet trading because I really enjoy face-to-face interactions with my customers.

“Fashions have changed a lot and have become a lot more minimalistic. We’ve had to adapt to the fashion changes over the years.

“Since I opened the shop, Bishop Auckland has changed a lot because of out of town development. Internet shopping has changed the way that people buy.

“We have a team of dedicated staff, who have been with us a long time. They have helped us to achieve the success we’ve had over the years, and we have a lot of very loyal customers.

“The future of high street retailing is in doubt, but Bishop Auckland has been very good to us, we’ve had 34 successful years.”

The shop is expected to shut for good by the end of October.