A FAILING business owner who is set to close his pet shop after 20 years despairs over the future of High Street trade after admitting he can barely afford to support himself.

It has been a tough year for Mel Christmas, 66, who took over the running of 4 Pets Clacton back in 2000 after his brother's cancer diagnosis.

Since then he has gone above and beyond to offer a useful service, including pet care advice tailored to individual customers.

But over the past two years trade has declined sharply.

"Business has dropped from around £5,000 a week to £2,000 per week," he said.

"I was born in Walton in 1952, I went to Clacton County High School, I am a part of this community.

"But I feel like the town needs to wake up.

"I got out of the old building we occupied 18 months ago, which was falling down around my ears and moved further along the High Street.

"Now the Post Office is shutting in June, Marks and Spencer has gone and there have been rumours about Argos going as well.

"The other day I just closed early because it was just a waste of time.

"Come down the High Street and you will see it is dying."

Things went from bad to worse for Mel in October last year, when his wife Barbara, 76, died from sepsis after a lengthy illness.

Barbara previously owned Clacton's Melrose Hotel for 30 years.

Mel freely admits he doesn't know how long he can carry on working and plans to close his shop next year if the current trend continues.

"A lot of people I talk to say Clacton has gone down the pan and is not a nice place to live," he added.

"We have been a specialist shop in the community - doing free deliveries and looking after our elderly customers by giving advice.

"The money I am making is not sustainable and will wipe me out.

"Unfortunately people don't really have any reason to come into Clacton anymore to shop."

His daughter Angela Jade said the current intense speculation over Brexit was deflecting attention away from other issues.

She said: "Business has been slowly dwindling over the years, but since some of the major shops closed in the last six months its made a huge dent in his income.

"I think people forget that small businesses depend on trade to feed themselves and their families and not just a big corporation.

"Brexit talk is affecting everything and no one is realising the damage just talking about it is causing.

"He is having to sell his house and will lose a lot of money if the store closes.

"The post office closed as well as three other stores on the High Street, which has left little to no foot traffic for other small businesses."