MIDDLE class women shoplifting wool have contributed to the demise of a independent haberdashery in Oxford, it was claimed last night.

Port Meadow in Jericho will be close down this month after 22 years of selling wool after being hit by a spate of thefts.

Owner Azizë Stirling said she had had enough of people walking off with her wool without paying for it.

She said: “One of the reasons I am closing down is the shoplifting. I get middle-class women who think that somebody owes them something, stealing my wool.”

She said she never reported it to the police because she did not think there was anything they could do about it.

She said: “It was quite easy for me to know wool was being stolen. We used to do inventories and would count up how much wool we had and compare it with what we had sold.”

Ms Stirling also hit out at the costs of running a shop in Oxford, claiming it could spell an end to independent stores in the city.

She said: “You make so little money that you get tired of it year after year. Every time you manage to increase your growth it just gets taken away from you.

“Individual and independent shops will be a thing of the past because the large landlords in Oxford are just interested in the bottom line.”

Last year she paid more than £18,000 in rent and about £4,600 in business rates.

When she first started her business, Ms Stirling paid in the region of £200 a month in business rates but it has more than doubled now to £460. The Walton Street shop will be closing down for good on Sunday, September 30.

She hopes to forge a new career out of teaching the Alexander technique, which teaches people how to stand and sit differently to eliminate tension in their bodies.

Richard Bailey, who owns Daisies Flower Shop in Walton Street, said: “We are very sad Port Meadow is closing down. It is a one-off shop, which is getting rarer.

“I couldn’t agree more with Azize about rents and rates and the problem is that when these shops leave they tend to be replaced with things like estate agents.”

Oxford City Council is responsible for collecting business rates, which are paid into a central pool. The Government then gives each council a share of the money.

City council spokesman Louisa Dean said: “Every five years all non-domestic properties are subject to revaluation. This is carried out by the Valuation Office Agency to ensure they are kept up to date and reflect changes in the property market.

“You can appeal against your business rates through the valuation office.”