A Norfolk florist has spoken of her devastation at having to close her business after 23 years due to the rising cost of living crisis.

Natalie Southgate, 52, has run Flowers by Natalie, in Holt Road, Cawston, for more than two decades and said she was left with "no choice" over fears it would cost her money just to work.

Mrs Southgate said the drop-off in demand over Christmas was the final straw.

She said: "We've noticed a major downturn in custom since September when the electric and gas price increases kicked in.

"Everyone is cutting back and being more careful with their money.

Norwich Evening News:

"At the end of the day, we're a luxury trade so it's understandable but it's no longer viable to run the business."

Mrs Southgate, who lives in Cawston, said her electric bills have risen from £1,500 to £4,000 and was worried she would begin to "throw away her savings" by keeping the shop open.

She added: "Before the pandemic, you'd have 20 items for a funeral, now you're lucky if you get three.

"The drop off is huge and it isn't sustainable."

Mrs Southgate considered just operating a buy-to-order service from home but the added costs of petrol made the option a non-starter.

"If I take an order for £25 or £30, I'd have to get in my car and drive down to the wholesalers then make the item up and go and deliver it to the customer.

Norwich Evening News:

"With petrol prices how they are, it's not worth it and I can't charge a delivery fee which is almost the price of the flowers."

Since announcing the news that she would be leaving, Mrs Southgate said she is "thankful" for the dozens of messages of support from customers.

"A lot of my customers I'd class as friends because some have been very loyal even in challenging times," she said.

"I knew I'd be missed. Some people always joke and say 'don't you dare retire'.

"I can't believe I'm going but it's just the nature of these unprecedented times we live in."

Flowers by Natalie will be open on Thursday, January 12, until Saturday, January 14, to sell off remaining stock.