The shop was run by the Searle family since it opened 1924 and sold fancy dress costumes, toys and practical jokes to generations of loyal customers. Their Facebook post announcing the closure was met with more than 3000 comments of support.
On their last day of business on March 30 2019, staff were joined by crew and presenters from the BBC’s The One Show who did a segment about the business. A miniature version of the shop now stands in the Southsea Model village to commemorate the business' place in Portsmouth history.
C&A clothed Portsmouth for decades but failed to survive into the 21st century. C&A - like much of commercial road - was destroyed during the Blitz in 1941, and thousands queued outside the shopfront in 1950 for the store’s grand re-opening. The shop closed in 2000 as the multinational chain withdrew from the British market due to increased competition from supermarkets and high street clothes shops.
John Lewis’ Knight and Lee
Brothers-in-law Jesse Knight and Edward Herbert Soden Lee bought a lace shop on Palmerston Road in 1887 and it was acquired by the John Lewis Partnership in the 1930s.
127 jobs were lost when the shop closed in 2019 due to ‘the physical condition, size, age and shape of the property’ and other factors which meant the chain deemed renovating the store not viable. The premises remain empty as of February 2023.
Popularly known as ‘Woolies’, Woolworths had more than 800 high street shops in the UK prior to 2008. Between 27 December 2008 and January 6 2009, all stores were closed and 27,000 jobs were lost across the country. Shoppers will remember grabbing a ‘pic ‘n mix’ at Woolworths on Commercial Road, which first opened in 1950 as part of the town’s post-war regeneration but shut forever in 2009.
In March 2020, the Debenhams on the corner of Commercial Road and Arundel Street closed permanently. The department store was a dominant part of Portsmouth’s high street and left a large empty unit when it shut – leading to speculation as to what would take it’s place. Recent plans could see the site become the city’s ‘first skyscraper’ as delvelopers hope to create a 38-storey block of flats.
Before Debenhams opened on Commercial Road, the premises was home to a branch of the department store Allders. Prior to Allders opening in 1982, the building contained the Landport Drapery Bazaar (LBD). Allders fulfilled many shoppers’ needs but the company reported a loss of £22.6m and had closed all of its locations by 2005.
Mothercare on Commercial Road was a go-to place for expectant mothers to stock up and a popular choice for young children’s clothing. The chain had started to collapse in 2017 and had it had vanished from our high streets entirely by 2019, although some of its products can still be found for sale today in Boots.
British Home Stores
British Home Stores was another beloved department store in Portsmouth, which offered everything from clothes to furniture and electrical appliances.
BHS in the Cascades Sopping Centre closed in 2016 along with branches in Fareham and Chichester. 11,000 jobs were lost across 163 locations, the end of an 88 year era of British shopping.
Toys R Us
Walking through the isles of Toys R Us and begging parents for the hottest new toy will be a nostalgic memory for many. When American toy superstore chain Toys R Us collapsed into administration in 2018, all of its UK shops closed including one at Ocean Retail Park, Portsmouth. Toys R Us is now back in business, trading online and could soon make a physical comeback.
Before the advent of Netflix and other streaming giants, there was blockbuster. Many will remember taking their blue Blockbuster card to browse the shelves of the Blockbuster on London Road until the business closed forever in 2013. The Blockbuster dream failed to to win over customers who could browse the same titles from the cofort of their sofas resulting in the closure of 528 high street stores in the UK.
Established in 1974, Ross Records was an independent music shop which sold sold vinyl records, video games, consoles, DVDs for decades on Kingston Road, Fratton. It is now permanently closed.
Fratton Model Centre
Fratton Model Centre on Fratton Road provided building materials for model-makers and was a familiar feature of Fratton for 65 years. It was originally the Fratton Bargain Shop when it opened in 1957 but was taken over by Brian Salt who ran the business until he retired last year but said he planned to continue with his passion at model fairs and events across the country.
Marks and Spencer
Known to some shoppers as ‘Marks and Sparks’, the British retailer has not collapsed as an entity like other entries on the list. However, Marks and Spencer closed on Commercial Road in March 2018 as part of a company store cull. Thankfully for fans of their food, clothing and homewear, other branches are still in business in Portsmouth such as the food hall at Ocean Retail Park and an outlet store in Gunwharf Quays.
One of the more recent closures in Portsmouth city centre was Geek Retreat. The venue, on Arundel Street in Portsmouth city centre, served its last customers on Thursday, June 29, having opened less than two years prior. Geek Retreat provided a one-stop shop for geek culture and hosted regular table-top game events such as dungeons and dragons sessions. It also had a cafe bar serving milkshakes and other treats.