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Top retailer quits Weymouth town centre
WEYMOUTH’S high street has been dealt another blow as it is revealed a major retailer will leave town after more than 25 years.
National fashion chain Next will shut the doors of its St Mary Street store before the end of 2012, the Echo has learned.
The company refused to comment but it is understood devastated staff learnt of the closure at a meeting held at the branch on Thursday.
They were informed the shop would close on December 29 and they will be given priority for jobs at the company’s neighbouring branches in Dorchester and Yeovil, which are not affected.
It is just one in a long line of knocks to Weymouth’s town centre in recent years.
Weymouth and Portland Chamber of Commerce president Anna Maria Geare said: “It’s very sad to see any retailer go from the high street, especially a store from a national chain.
“All we can hope is that the staff will be re-employed elsewhere.
“Unfortunately, it is a sign of the recession that even national retailers have to scale back.
“Next has got a huge level of online custom, people don’t necessarily have to come in to the town centre to do their shopping.
“It’s such a shame to see a big name leave our high street.
“I feel very sorry for the staff, especially in the current economic climate, where jobs aren’t as easy to secure.”
Local businessman Shaun Hennessey said: “Its prominent position has long been held as the benchmark for higher rent in the town.
“It is often used by landlords as a reason to keep rents high.
“But nobody would like to see such a prominent space empty.
“What a shame.
“Next is a company that has been building its online profile.
“Inevitably, that leads to it closing its older high street units.
“Although it is in a prominent position on our high street, it’s not the biggest retail unit.
“From a business point of view, it’s another sign of the struggle that retailers are facing. More and more niche retailers will be the future of our town, I think. I feel for the staff – they were always very efficient and helpful.”
Next has more than 500 stores in the UK and Ireland.
Its parent company, Next plc, earned pre-tax profits of £570m in the last financial year.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council spokesman for economic development Ian Munro-Price said: “It is always disappointing to see the departure of a familiar national chain store from our streets, and particularly since Next recently showed modest increases in half-year sales and profits results.
“However, Weymouth’s recent experience shows that the independent sector is ready and able to take up empty retail space which has both retained retail choice for consumers and maintained employment.” Speaking outside the store yesterday, shoppers said they were ‘shocked’ by Next’s departure.
Sarah Wolfe, from Weymouth, said: “I am really sad to hear this.
“I shop online, but I do come into the store too.
“I guess it will become another secondhand shop.
“Don’t get me wrong, I do go into them – but I think there is a serious problem that needs to be addressed.
“I really love Weymouth and I like the fact it’s a bit quirky, but to lose a big name like Next is a huge shame.”