A ‘SAD’ and emotional day marking the end of an era - and possibly the final nail in the coffin of the high street in Southsea - saw Knight & Lee slam shut its doors for the last time.
The John Lewis department store has been trading for more than 85 years from the Palmerston Road location but announced earlier this year it was closing due to a ‘unique combination of factors’.
These included significant investment needed in the shop and the opportunity to cash-in on the property freehold.
When the announcement was made earlier in the year, shoppers were left dumbfounded by the news.
Today, on the historic final day of the store, people were still coming to terms with the reality Knight & Lee was closing. This was despite the party atmosphere as the company threw a party to mark its final day – with Prosecco, nibbles and even opera music entertaining shoppers.
Judith Earl, 64, who has been going to the shop since she was a girl, said: ‘I’m gutted. It’s not just the shop shutting, it’s all the memories. I use to come here with family and friends.
‘It’s a big loss to Southsea but it seems to be the way the high street is going these days with it all going online. It’s a sad atmosphere.’
Graham and Glenda Howard, of Southsea, said it was a shame the store was shutting. Graham, 72, said: ‘It’s been a good day with lots going on in there. They had to make a big show on the last day – people seemed to be having a good time.’
Glenda, 68, added: ‘It was bedlam inside. A lot of people are sad but if the plans for shops and cinema go-ahead it could be good.’
Staff were putting a brave face on events with an emotional speech made by a manger and balloons being released into the sky, as well as a private party.
An employee who had worked for the store for more than 20 years said: ‘It is sad. It’s all the memories you have. Everyone’s a real team here.
‘Listening to the speech by the manager brought it home but it's good everyone has been enjoying themselves.’
John Smith, head of branch, said: ‘We have thoroughly enjoyed the years we have spent together and greatly appreciate the support you gave us as we grew our business in Southsea. From us all it’s final thank you.’