The owner of a longstanding Swindon shoe shop has spoken about the secrets to its success through tough economic times.

Mark Blaylock is the fourth generation in his family to manage the well-known retailer that rounds the corner of Devizes Road and Bath Road in Old Town, which originally opened in Gorse Hill as a shoe repair business before moving in 1928.

Safety measures introduced during the pandemic prevented the business from celebrating its centennial, while the rise of online shopping and the post-Covid cost of living crisis created challenging circumstances for the store’s survival.

But Mark is hopeful about the future and is certain that the broad range of shoes his shop exclusively offers and the one-to-one customer service that only in-store shopping can provide will ensure Blaylocks stays open for the foreseeable future.

He said: “We are a destination. Besides serving the local community, we have customers who travel a considerable distance to get to us because of our stock, staff, and advice - factors that we trust will continue to offset the online challenge.

"We are thankful for loyal longstanding staff - like Claire Fisher who has served over 30 years - because of the service they provide, that’s how we’ve been able to keep going as a small business while large chains shut shops and lay people off.

"It’s been more challenging since the pandemic, when we couldn’t open for months at a time, and more people are shopping online now.

"We sense that people are increasingly disenchanted with online shopping and appreciate being able to view, feel the product quality and try on in-store offerings because online, what arrives doesn’t always look like what they ordered or doesn’t fit so they have to send it back.

"They want that interaction with people who can actually talk about the product and know what they are selling and get the right shoes that the customer needs.

“From the moment someone comes through the door, we approach them and have one-to-one service from the same member of staff until they leave – hopefully with some shoes in a bag!

“Some returning customers ask for members of staff who served them previously which builds up good relationships with people.

“The stock and brands we carry are very different to what’s on the High Street - Anatomic, Ara, Barkers, Loakes, Remonte, Rieker, Skechers, Waldlaufer and, for children, Start – Rite school shoes.

"It’s the little touches that make a big difference.”

Loyal customers have kept coming back over the years, even if they no longer live in the area – one former Swindonian orders new pairs all the way from Australia.

Mark has been working at Blaylocks for nearly three decades and seen significant changes during that time, such as a marked shift from formal to more casual footwear.

The shop offers men’s and ladies' footwear, with seasonal additions, and children’s school shoes.

He added: “It was completely different back then, but it's nice to know that people still recognise and appreciate the quality of what we offer.

“We use our website as a shop window that encourages people to ring us if they want to know more.

"We trust we will be able to serve the people of Swindon and surrounding areas for many years to come.

"We want people to shop more local - if you don’t use the shops you have, you’ll lose them.

“This is a busy time of year going into the school summer holidays, with parents looking for new school shoes for their children. We will start receiving our autumn and winter stock from mid-August.

“It’s an old shop that's been around for over 100 years but the shoes aren’t all old-fashioned. I’m always looking for younger styles to keep up with current trends.”