At least five Fareham Shopping Centre stores are closing - including River Island after 34 years
HIGH street fashion retailer River Island is among at least five stores set to close in Fareham after more than three decades of trade.
The shop has been in Fareham Shopping Centre, in West Street, for 34 years and is allegedly the brand’s only original store in its first premises.
It is due to close at 5.30pm on Saturday, February 8.
Retailers Monsoon, tReds, Accessorize and Bon Marche are also displaying closing down signs in the centre.
Accessorize said it will also close on February 8, while the other stores are advertising sales.
An employee at River Island, who asked to remain anonymous, said the firm would attempt to transfer workers to other branches.
The company has stores in Commercial Road in Portsmouth, at Whiteley Shopping Centre and in East Street, Chichester.
River Island's Fareham store said on Instagram: ‘With the heaviest of hearts we are sad to announce that after 34 years of trade we will be closing our doors for the last time on Saturday, February 8.
‘We would like to thank all of our customers for always making our jobs so enjoyable and the store such an amazing experience.
‘We appreciate your support and patience at this time.’
The store’s closure follows the previous big-name departures of BHS and Marks and Spencer from Fareham Shopping Centre.
The member of River Island staff said: ‘I’m absolutely gutted. I’ve been in the company for many years and so have many of my colleagues.
‘We are the only original River Island store left in the company in its original location.
‘We have so many wonderful regulars who come visit us specifically every week.
‘There are so many customers who can’t get elsewhere and rely on Fareham for the shops and they’re all slowly closing, which leaves them stuck. We love our little store and it’s had a great 34-year run.’
Department store Beales, which opened in Marks and Spencer’s place in November, is already at risk after the firm went into administration.
An administrator for the firm said high business rates, rents and low Christmas sales were national factors, following a £3.1m loss in the year to March, 2019.
Fareham Borough Council has a 15 per cent equity in the shopping centre, which raises ‘hundreds of thousands of pounds' for local services.
The authority also owns the ground it sits on, but it does not set its business rates or rents.
Council leader, councillor Sean Woodward, said Fareham Shopping Centre ‘is not unique' in the problems it faces.
‘It's really sad news when any shop closes, but truth be told, we are all guilty for bringing about this demise of the town centre because so many people use the internet to shop,' he said.
‘According to the owner of the centre the footfall is holding up pretty well, but they do face turbulence in terms of people moving out and people moving in – that’s how it's always been.
‘We work with the owners to give them the assistance we can, but at the end of the day we do not set the rents or the business rates.’
It was also announced last year Topshop in Fareham Shopping Centre would close.
Fareham Shopping Centre's owner, Roubaix Group, has been contacted for comment.
It acquired the centre in 2015 for £54.5m.