The name Elt has been a byword for shoes in Worcester and the surrounding area for almost a century and a half.
The family firm was founded by Albert Elt (photograph below) in 1872 when he took over the two businesses of his brothers Harold and David, locating his new store in the Shambles.
In the Victorian tradition Albert had named his son Albert Edward, commonly known as Bert. With Ada his wife they already had a shoe store in High Street, Worcester, roughly where River Island stands today.
When father Albert died in 1923, Bert and Ada took on the Shambles business. The premises they bought at that time had been the Old Market Tavern.
Around this time Bert and Ada’s son Roy joined the business (but if Roy had followed his heart’s desire, he would have opened a radio and hi-fi shop near the cathedral!).
After World War II, through Roy’s vision, the fairly mediocre Shambles premises were transformed into a luxurious shoe store. This stood out conspicuously in a street populated mainly by butchers, fishmongers, green grocers, pubs and two way traffic!!
Success breeds success. Roy expanded into a new store in Malvern in 1948, followed by Stratford and Leominster in 1953 and 1966 respectively.
Roy’s son Robin joined the business in 1964 which means, to date, he has had 53 years at the helm.
Like father like son, Robin saw potential in other towns with a similar trading profile to Worcester and has since opened in Hereford, Ludlow, Pershore, Abergavenny, Torquay and Totnes. All beautiful towns that are strong tourist destinations.
Modern retailing requires that you remain alert to changing trading conditions. Witness the current boom in coffee shops, mobile phone shops and hairdressers!
Taking these factors into account, the business has kept pace with trends and at various times has traded in Mealcheapen Street, Lychgate, Reindeer Court only to return to the Shambles in 1998, to its current premises at number 50, opposite Argos. When Robin took on the business, Worcester had no fewer than 16 stand-alone shoe shops. Now there are only 5 other shoe retailers – how times and the High Street change!
Robin is extremely proud of the Shambles heritage where characterful neighbours included Pratleys china shop, Maggs clothing, Thompson’s fish store and Sigleys sweet shop, who have now sadly passed into history.
The shoe trade must work its way into the blood. From her early start in the 1920’s Granny Ada stayed as cashier until she was 91.
Therefore it should come as no surprise that in 1991, having acquired a degree at Exeter University, Jenny joined the business – the fifth generation. Evolution dictates the direction of a business and Jenny has brought her skills in IT and finance, taking on the buying role from Robin for all nine shops. They’ve both travelled to Europe to seek out the very best in international footwear.
In Robin’s view, “We would be nowhere over the years had it not been for the loyal, enthusiastic and most capable staff that run the shops with us. We hope to perpetuate this family tradition, as one of the longest retail histories in the Midlands”.