THE owners of a shop in Thundersley have announced they are retiring after 56 years running the popular business.

Pat and Colin Shields have worked tirelessly at the clothes-for-cash shop SG Shields in London Road but have announced they are now standing down and the shop will close.

Over the years, the business has donated thousands of clothes to those who need them most – including sending countless items to Africa.

The couple have thanked the community for making “every minute of the business” incredible but have stated that recent pressures in the markets and their own age has proved a major difficulty in remaining involved.

The announcement sparked an outpouring of sadness on social media with dozens of residents sending their best wishes to Pat, 75, and Colin, 76.

Plans have been submitted to Castle Point Council to demolish the Shields offices and build five flats and a pair of three-bed semi-detached houses.

Pat said: “We have totally enjoyed every minute of this business, otherwise we wouldn’t have kept on doing it.

“However, we feel that we aren’t getting any younger and as time goes on and the markets get more difficult, you don’t have the energy anymore.

“We have enjoyed it here, there are so many marvellous people in our trade and everyone in the community has been perfect.

“Every person that has come into our premises has been polite, like our boys and girls are to them and we like to run a nice and polite company.

“I think that is how you get the respect we have.”

The business will continue to operate for the next few months before closing permanently, when their Chelmsford factory is emptied and the last of their stock has been shifted.

Pat added that, while it has come to the “end of the road”, the couple have been working for a very long time, with Pat’s father-in-law taking over the premises in 1957.

“Right now, we are scaling right down and eventually towards the end of the month, we will stop taking clothes from the public,” she added.

“We have lots of stock here in Benfleet, we won’t just stop in the next few weeks, and we have a lot of machinery too to get rid of.

“We’ve just carried on working, we have been enjoying the business and while you have a happy family, you tend to carry on before you feel that things aren’t quite right anymore.”