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Britain’s oldest shop worker, 96, has no plans to retire: ‘Not sitting at home moping!’

Over 40 years ago, in 1981, Irene Astbury opened Pet Food Supplies Ltd in Macclesfield, Cheshire, where she has continued to work. Before the pandemic, Erin continued to work five days a week, but reduced her work as her family struggled to get her to work. Now the great-grandmother of seven works a 25.5-hour week for three days, pricing items behind the cash register, processing invoices and keeping an eye on her staff.

But Erin says she won’t give up anytime soon.

She said, “I won’t give up until they tell me to leave. I have nothing better to do and want to focus on each of them.

“It’s better than sitting at home moping around and I can focus on all the kids. I can still get up and that’s all that matters.

“I have no intention of stopping going – or I can’t devote my full attention to it. I don’t want to stay home.

Erin runs the store with one of her grandsons, Gail Parks, 36, who helped take over the store when Erin lost her husband Les in 2007.

Gail said Erin was “part of the furniture” and generations kept coming to say hello.

She added: “We joked, ‘Do I have to look at these four walls longer, how many days before I go back to the store?’

“She gets bored easily at home when she’s sitting in front of the TV, so she prefers to work.

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“We have generations of customers coming in and they remember when Nana opened her doors and then she saw their family grow. There are customers who have been buying from us for 40 years and now their children or grandchildren are coming.

“She always asks about them and remembers them. There was a client whose daughter was traveling overseas, one worked at McDonald’s and she was always asking how they were doing.

“Sometimes customers bring pictures or show him pictures. She always asks some families and how their children are doing.

“I think she’s an inspiration, and if my four kids can follow in Nana’s footsteps after seeing her work ethic, then I think that’s great.”

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