TUCKED away from the high street in Leigh town centre is a florist that has stood proud for more than a century.

Although the management of Howcroft's Florist has been passed on a handful of times, it has long been known as a friendly and colourful business that has helped countless Leythers to celebrate special occasions.

With a wide variety of flowers and tributes, Howcroft's has benefitted from Leigh's busy market trade and thriving local industries throughout its century in business.

However, like other high streets across the country, footfall has declined in Leigh and this has had a significant impact on one of the town centre's oldest businesses.

READ > Young mum's salon shortlisted for national award for second year running

Leigh Journal: There is a wide selection of flowers at the Union Street shopThere is a wide selection of flowers at the Union Street shop (Image: Leigh Journal)
Michelle Edwards, who has worked at the florist for 13 years, took over the business in late 2022 and explained that while footfall was already declining in Leigh, there has been a "massive drop off" since covid.

Michelle, who is based in St Helens, said: "There has been a massive decline across the town centre in general, but over the past 18 months it has been really bad.

"It was chaos during covid, because we had lots of people staying at home for family celebrations and lots of contactless deliveries.

"We didn't expect that to remain and knew it would go back to normal, but there has been a massive drop off in people coming into the shop since then."

Leigh Journal: Bradshawgate has suffered with declining footfall and departing shopsBradshawgate has suffered with declining footfall and departing shops (Image: Leigh Journal)
Although there used to be four staffers based at Howcroft's, there is now only Michelle and her colleague Julie who work out of the Union Street shop, as well as a driver who helps with delivery orders.

Michelle suggested that a lack of shops in Leigh town centre and a rise in anti-social behaviour are some reasons why they are getting far fewer customers coming into the florist.

Additionally, the cost of living crisis has been a huge thing for Howcroft's as their customers have less disposable income at a time when product costs are rising, and Brexit has also had a negative impact due to increasing taxes on the flowers they import from abroad.

However, although it has been a real struggle to attract people into their Union Street shop in recent years, Michelle said that she is extremely grateful for the support of her regular customers who have helped to sustain the business.

Leigh Journal: The florist is sustained by its regulars and online ordersThe florist is sustained by its regulars and online orders (Image: L)
She added: "I think if it wasn't for the internet, online orders, and being part of the 'Interflora' network, we would struggle to survive in Leigh.

"But we do have these orders coming in and our regulars sustaining us, which is a massive help, and after being here for 100 years, the business does have a really good reputation."