One of Blackpool’s key fashion stores is set to close with the loss of around 15 jobs.
The resort will now be without an H&M shop after next Sunday, the company today confirmed.
Staff members said they believed the move came after rents were put up at the Houndshill, but no-one from the centre or H&M could confirm this.
The closure is a blow for the retail heart of the town and comes after a recent report showed Blackpool was one of the areas in the region struggling on the high street with twice as many closures as opening in the past 12 months.
The figures from the Local Data Company for accountants Price Waterhouse Coopers showed there were 205 businesses operating in the town centre in January this year, down from 216 in January 2017.
It blamed competition from out of town centres and online shopping but at the time of the report a spokesman for the Houndshill Centre said they only had two vacant units out of 65. Last week a new store, Smiggle, opened there.
An H&M spokesman said today: “The H&M Blackpool store will permanently close for trade on Sunday, May 6.
“Customers can shop online at www.hm.com or visit our nearest stores in Preston, Liverpool Church Street. Returns will be accepted in the Blackpool store until May 6, after which returns will be accepted at any UK H&M store.
“Our employees are always our priority and every effort is made to relocate colleagues to surrounding stores where possible.”
The Gazette understands staff at the H&M store in the Houndshill Centre were told two weeks ago that the store was to close and the Swedish company’s human resources team were sent in to talk to the shop workers.
However one of the workers said that out of the 17 members of staff only two had been found alternative roles in the company.
They added: “Initially there were tears, but with it being the final week everyone has come to terms with losing their jobs. All but two have lost jobs and are having to sign on as there simply aren’t that many jobs going at the moment in the town. They said they would try and relocate our jobs but unfortunately there was no roles elsewhere so the majority of us are taking redundancy.
“We haven’t had deliveries sent for weeks and we have already packed away the back of the store. Anything left over from next Sunday will be sent to surrounding stores.
“It seems like it’s quieter than ever and with stores making less and less money and the footfall decreasing each year it wouldn’t surprise me if Blackpool was no longer a shopping destination.
“A lot of customers have been frustrated with the decision. Literally everyone we have had in store has said they will just go to Preston in future, as they offer more shops and a nicer shopping environment.”
Blackpool South MP Gordon Marsden said: “This is obviously disappointing news for a big high street name to close in Blackpool.
“It is now important that the staff affected by this closure are supported so they can find their way back into employment again as quickly as possible.
“In addition the proposed merger between Asda and Sainsbury could have further implications on local jobs in the retail sector.”