A SHOE shop in Southampton has been crowned the independent footwear retailer of the year.

W. J. French & Son, based on Bedford Place, have been running as a local family business for over 216 years and were over the moon when they received their award at the Drapers Footwear Awards.

After joining John Lewis, Sketchers and Clarks in the past year, they were praised by judges for their "great combination of tradition, history and the way it embraces the community".

The shoe business - one of the oldest shoe shops in England - dates back to 1794, when a man called Francis French began an apprenticeship as a shoemaker and then decided to start his own business in 1803.

Its location on Bedford Place then began in 1890 when his son William purchased the shop, and it has been running ever since.

Caroline French is the managing director of W.J. French & Son and the eighth generation of her family to run the business, and she said she was "thrilled to fly the flag for independent businesses".

She said: "One of the things people love about independent businesses like ours is that we’re able to give such a personal service to customers.

"We have 16 very experienced members of staff and, considering their average length of service here is 22 years, they certainly know a thing or two about how to find the perfect fit."