Jobs threatened as stores face closure

JOBS are at risk as two high street chains in Hastings face an uncertain future.

Women’s fashion retailer Jane Norman, which has an outlet within Debenhams, went into administration last week.

Administrators from accountancy firm Zolfo Cooper said the firm, which specialises in accessories and clothes for women between 16 and 25, was the latest company to suffer because of the recession and tough trading environment.

The firm has 94 stores across the UK and Edinburgh Woollen Mill has already bought 33 of them.

A spokesman for Zolfo Cooper said the Hastings branch would continue to trade but remained tight-lipped about whether it would eventually close or not.

All of Jane Norman’s stock is now owned by Edinburgh Woollen Mill, the spokesman added.

Chocolate retailer Thorntons is also facing a grim future as the Derbyshire-based firm plans to close 120 of its 364 stores across the UK over the next three years.

A spokesman for the company said there had been no announcement as yet which stores would be closed, leaving the future of the Hastings branch in Priory Meadow, which employs five people, uncertain.

The firm said it too was facing challenging trading conditions because of the current recession.

Thorntons said it hopes to replace most of its affected stores with franchises over the next three years.

It wants sales to become less dependent on seasonal events like Christmas and Easter and aims to increase profits via its website.

John Hough, manager of Priory Meadow Shopping Centre, said: “I don’t think we have seen the end of this by a long shot and I don’t think it’s going to get any easier in the high street because of the economic squeeze.

“The easy availability of out-of-town retail parks, internet sales and the amount of money going into big supermarket competition these days has not helped.”

Townsfolk are being encouraged to buy at least one item from their local independent store as part of a national drive to keep the high street alive.

The campaign, called Independents’ Day, is on Monday.

Skillsmart Retail and the National Skills Academy for Retail have teamed up with independent retailers around the country to encourage the public to shop locally.

Rob Woods, town centre manager, said: “Hastings and St Leonards still has a diverse and resilient independent sector and if consumers support them, it will mean that money stays within the local economy to support local growth in jobs and other opportunities.”