A FANCY dress shop that has been a mainstay of Portsmouth retail for almost a century has closed its doors for the final time.
U Need Us, a party shop on the corner of Arundel and Slindon Street, has been a part of the community for 95 years.
But today, staff from the family-run business said their final goodbyes to customers as the shop closes for good, amid challenging times for high street businesses.
The Searle family has passed the shop down through the generations, seeing their customers grow up and eventually come into the store with children of their own.
Owner Steve Searle said that today was an emotional day, but one ‘mixed with pride’.
‘It feels very weird,’ he confessed ‘but it’s been busy enough to keep my mind off things.
‘A lot of people have been coming in and sharing memories of how they remember the shop and are very sad that we are going.
‘The problem we’ve had is simply that everyone can get hold of anything via the internet – they can import things themselves and you just couldn’t do that 25 years ago.’
Currently, the future of the building is uncertain – but Mr Searle believes it will most likely become a restaurant or cafe.
He said: ‘The unit will be sold off; it will probably be turned into a restaurant or cafe, with some residential flats on the top floor.
‘At the moment, a lot of high streets just don’t provide the right experience; 20 years ago they were all the same, now all of them are struggling.
‘I think independent retail is the way forward – but sadly its too late for us.’
Shoppers say that the store will be greatly missed, sharing some of their childhood memories of coming in to buy stuff for parties.
Gary Hayward, 57 from Portsmouth, said: ‘It’s a shame because this place has been here for 95 years – I remember coming in with my mum and dad back in the 60s.
‘I don’t know of any shop quite like this one.’
Sharon Harrison, 49, added: ‘Sadly it’s not just this shop that is closing – it’s a growing problem right up and down the high street.’
Sammie Mayhead, 22, says that U Need Us has always been the go-to place ahead of a big party.
She said: ‘I think it’s rally sad that this place is closing, because it brings so much happiness to so many people.
‘There’s so much variety, the staff are always really friendly and they even get stuck into the fancy dress themselves.
‘I’ve always come in here for fancy dress stuff and have loved being able to look at everything they have for sale.
‘It’s ironic that it has been really busy today, just because it is closing down – it’s too late to save it now.’
Kirsty Howard, 36, added: ‘All that’s going to be left is online shopping at this rate.’
Mr Searle says that the family will be taking a bit of time out before deciding on their next business venture – but he claims it will hopefully be a world away from retail.