SHOPPERS fear their high street is turning into a ghost town after the closure of a big chain shop.
Clinton Cards in Gosport’s High Street closed this week, bringing the number of empty shop units in the town centre to 18.
Shoppers say the town is on the decline but that has not stopped some firms opening up new stores in High Street in recent months.
Lauren Mathias, 26, who lives in High Street, said: ‘It is becoming a bit of a ghost town.
‘It’s sad but it seems to be the way things are going.
‘I shop in the high street but I do quite often go to Portsmouth and other places as well.’
Empty units in the town include a bar, an estate agent, a travel shop and a charity shop.
James Hutton, 31, of Mill Lane, Gosport, said: ‘I think the internet is to blame because everybody does all their shopping on there now.
‘I don’t come to High Street much because there’s nothing here I need and everything I need I get online.
‘Big chain shops came along and pushed out the independent traders and now businesses online are doing the same to the chains.
‘The only thing I come to the high street for now is the bank.’
But not all shops are closing down, with a few opening up in the town in the last few months.
Deborah Ingham, deputy manager of the newly-opened Solent Diabetes Association charity shop, said: ‘We have actually been doing quite well. For some shops it has been a disappointing time over Christmas and that hasn’t helped.
‘It’s a shame to see all the shops closing down.’
Other new businesses in High Street include a sweet shop, a clothes shop and a tattoo studio.
Councillor Mark Hook, who owns a shop in High Street, said: ‘I think it will be a difficult year and there are lots of reasons for that.
‘One is the amount of internet shopping and over the last few years that has had a detrimental effect. Bigger chains also look closely at their shops when leases are up.
‘We have seen the demise of the greengrocers’ and the butchers’ shops because people go to supermarkets more.
‘But I’m thrilled that some shops have opened up recently and shown they have confidence in the town.
‘As a council we will do everything we can to support businesses.’
Cllr Hook added there were no plans to raise parking charges in the town this year.