AN INCREASE in cost-of-living expenses and a drop in sales has led to the closure of a Dunfermline business.

Louise McKeown announced on Friday that she would be "winding down" her online and travelling home store, A Gift For, saying that financial pressures had caused her to lose the "drive, passion, and excitement" she once had.

She warned that "everyone is just surviving" through the crisis, and that many shops like hers won't make it out the other side.

"It came to the stage where I just thought, you can't flog a dead horse, there has been such a decline over the past couple of years, it hit us really hard during COVID," she told the Press.

"People just don't have the money to spend on things for their house, more luxury items.

"Everything has an expiry date, you just need to know when to get out."

The mum-of-three, who ran the shop from her home on Stewart Crescent, had been forced to take on a second job at a cafe, which has now also closed.

She says that A Gift For never bounced back post-pandemic and that without her part-time role to supplement her wage, she has been forced to move to full-time, reliable work to make ends meet.

"It was a family decision," she explained.

"It was the impact on them, they had been used to me being so flexible, we didn't take it lightly.

"I was juggling – I even had to take on 'mystery shopper' jobs for extra income.

"I'll have a paycheck at the end of the month – it's the stability."

Until 2020, the 45-year-old, who was often helped by her husband, Steven Mckeown, visited more than 30 corporate offices regularly to sell her goods. She could make more than £1,000 in just a few hours but that all stopped during the pandemic, and since, only two contracts, at Sky in Dunfermline and Linlithgow, have invited her back.

Her stall would be filled with gift items, including home accessories and fragrances, but she says that even with promise of the upcoming Halloween and Christmas seasons, any extra money made would not have been enough.

"We realised we were never going to do, even over the festive period, as much as we had before," Louise said.

"The last couple of years have been rubbish for us, this year would only be worse, it only goes downhill.

"It was a question of whether to buy lots of stock and risk it but come January I think there will be so many places closing and looking for jobs I wanted to look while there wasn't as much demand.

"For me, the business was dead in the water – it's long gone, it was a niche market for us and I don't think it will come back, so many places don't have stalls any more."

Online, she says that due to being up against sites like Amazon, who offer free delivery and other perks, she would never make as much as she had before.

"Even myself, that's how I shop, that's how everyone shops," she added.

"I would have to pay to have a good spot on Google, so much wasted money. It is sad but I came to terms with it quite quickly.

"I don't want it to eat me up, it to be a stress on my mind.

"It is ridiculous how much we made in the closing down sale, it just shows you how people are right now, you just think where were these people before?

"It is game over, nothing can change my mind."

Louise starts her new job in recruitment in Rosyth next month, having formerly worked in social work at Fife Council until opening A Gift For in 2017, and said that hers would likely not be the last business to close its doors due to similar issues.

"I have friends who do similar things and they are all the same, not one person I have spoken to is doing well.

"It's understandable, if you were to choose what to spend your money on it would be a meal out, quality time, not something for your home.

"I do think small businesses will continue to struggle."

It follows the recent closures of city-centre bistro Raw Pressed and Dunfermline's only zero waste store, Happy Earth Place, while Monty's, on Guildhall Street, announced a cut in opening hours due to high expenses.