A STALWART of Barnsley’s independent shopping arcade is calling time on the shop his grandad opened almost a century ago.

Roger Foulstone admits changing shopping habits and the coronavirus pandemic have sped up his decision to walk away from the menswear business, still in the same premises it was in 1929 when Tom Foulstone opened it and set his name above the door.

But at 65 years old, Roger said it’s the right time to step down.

He started in the shop ‘more or less straight out of school’ under dad Peter, and running the family firm was always on the cards.

“It was always my ambition - apart from being a footballer, which I nearly did,” he told the Chronicle.

“I must’ve liked it because I’ve been here 47 or 48 years now.

“Serving people has definitely become a lot easier - all the shirts used to be in boxes and when somebody came in, you’d get all the boxes down and take the shirts out.

“When someone came in, if they bought a shirt, they invariably bought a tie to go with it.

“Now, that’s only the case if they’re going to a wedding or, unfortunately, a funeral.”

Staff in the shop have also remained constant, with Roger joined by his sister Janet.

Roger’s son though, 40-year-old Tom, chose to become a physiotherapist rather than take up the reins.

“We’ve always prided ourselves on good service,” said Roger, from Gawber.

“If someone asks for something, I’ll do my utmost to get it - if they want a red dickie bow, I’ll get one.

“It’s become more and more difficult, to be honest.

“A lot has moved online. I’m not very good with technology, full-stop.

“If I’m going to order something, I’d much prefer to talk over the phone than send an email. I’m not one for changing systems - if it works, I carry on.”

The shop’s faced possibly its most difficult period since the Second World War in the last 14 months, with long stretches of closure meaning profits have taken an inevitable hit.

The Victorian Arcade, too, has seen its fortunes come and go.

It was given that historic moniker in 2015, in an attempt to rejuvinate interest - one of several floated plans that have also included turning it into a James Hudson Taylor-inspired Chinese quarter.

Roger said he was one of the instigators of the Victorian Arcade scheme, which started with requests for signage at each end of the arcade to make sure passers-by knew about the range of independent retailers there.

But it’s often struggled to capture shoppers’ interest, with traders most recently raising concerns over the arcade becoming a ‘drinking alley’ amid several applications to open bars in closed units.

“When I first started, the arcade was so busy,” said Roger.

“And gradually, out-of-town developments and Meadowhall popped up - they didn’t have an immediate effect, but even after only two years you could see the effect they were having.

“We all want the arcade to be thriving, but it’s had its up and downs - and in the last 15 years it’s been more downs than ups.

“It will be sad not seeing customers, but I still like talking to old customers.

“Just recently I recognised a man who hadn’t been in for probably 15 years, and I asked if he still had those shirts I sold him - and he said he did.”

Upon his retirement, planned for September, Roger’s looking forward to spending more time with his family and watching his beloved Barnsley FC - hopefully in the Premier League.