ONE of the oldest shops in York is to close.

Whitby Oliver, the 110-year-old furniture retailer in Hospital Fields Road is to shut down on June 1, with the loss of three jobs, because of increasing competition.

But Britannia Whitby Oliver, the thriving removals division of the business, will continue to operate from 50,000sq ft of warehousing on the same site.

Bosses of the two-storey, 10,000sq ft furniture shop today sent out letters to its customers pledging that all orders would be honoured and that any other issues would be dealt with.

Robert Walker, spokesman for the well-known retailer, said that the £600,000 turnover furniture store could not compete with the big multiples, many of whom were able to offer zero per cent finance.

He said: "It is a sad shame. We don't have the same backing from a finance company and for us to operate finance cost us eight per cent of the furniture's value - a cost which had to be passed on "Trading has been difficult. Over the last three years the retail sector generally has been tough and profit margins have been squeezed. One of the main factors was that furniture manufacturers have been struggling as raw materials have gone up. The same products can be found in numerous stores and the market place is so flooded with offers that there is no money in it.

"It is all right if you have an £8 million turnover business, but not for us."

He stressed that the organisation would now concentrate on its core removals business which had experienced a record past three years.

The shop closure brings to an abrupt end a side of the business started in 1897 by Whitby Charles Oliver, who had been an apprentice to John Taylor, cabinet maker and upholsterer of Coney Street.

Until the 1970s it was based in Micklegate, York, from where over the years it traded as a furniture store, a French polishers, cabinet maker and funeral director's. That was also the headquarters of its growing removals business The firm also traded from Dalton Terrace, had warehouses in Priory Street and Victoria Bar (now apartments) and still owns the site at York Brewery in Toft Green which was part of the Micklegate complex.

It also once owned what became known as Olivers' Corner, a branch of the furniture shop in Whip-ma-Whop-ma-Gate, now occupied by solicitors Harrowell Shaftoe. But with the massive growth of the removal business, the organisation moved to what was the old Imphal barracks hospital site in Hospital Fields Road.