Littlehampton restaurant Wimpy closes after 45 years and major clothing store M&Co set to follow - This is why

The closures of a popular clothing store and an historic restaurant in Littlehampton have been described as 'terrible' losses for the town.

Fast-food restaurant Wimpy, which was based in Surrey Street, closed for the final time earlier this month.

Meanwhile, fashion retailer M&Co's High Street branch will serve customers for the final time on Saturday, July 9.

Celia Thomson-Hitchcock, chairman of Littlehampton Traders Partnership and owner of hair salon Ahead to Toe, said: "It's always sad when businesses close [but] this is a terrible loss for the town.

Littlehampton Town Centre. Photo by Derek Martin Photography

"They are two well-established businesses closing."

Why has M&Co closed?

A closing down sale is ongoing at M&Co, which will close on July 9.

This is because the business owners 'couldn't come to an agreement with the landlord'.

A closing down sale is ongoing at M&Co in Littlehampton's High Street, which will close on July 9.

Ellen Ribalta, store manager at M&Co, said, the shop was a key part of the town 'for a long time', adding: "We want to say thank you the customers who have supported us over the years."

Ms Ribalta encouraged customers to visit the nearest stores in Bognor Regis and Hove, whilst they can also shop online.

A planning application (LU/85/22/PL), now approved by Arun District Council, requested permission to convert the upstairs area of the building into two flats

There will also be external alterations associated with this change of use.

Wimpy has said it hopes the much-loved burger chain will be able return to the town at some stage in the future.

The M&Co store, which has had a presence in the town for more than 40 years, had initially been saved from closure in 2020. The company appointed administrators after the coronavirus outbreak forced most UK retailers to close for almost four months. Click here to read more.

What about Wimpy?

Wimpy has been a feature in the town for nearly 45 years, with franchisee Peter Dunn taking over the reins in October 2018.

Wimpy has said it hopes the much-loved burger chain will be able return to the town at some stage in the future.

“Peter did a great job and we are sorry to see him go, but challenging trading conditions combined with rising costs made it very difficult and sadly he was forced to close,” said Chris Woolfenden, Wimpy UK general manager.

“We know we have many Wimpy fans in Littlehampton and we will continue to look for opportunities to bring Wimpy back to the town before too long.”

Mr Dunn, meanwhile, blamed the pandemic, inflation, VAT, bounceback repayments and increasing staff costs.

He said: "We battled on throughout Covid, however more businesses started delivering McDonalds, KFC, Greggs, etc, so our sales fell.

"Luckily the Government offered bounceback loans to get us back on our feet. This sounded like a great idea so we invested in a mini refurb, new equipment and new toilets.

"Ready for Eat Out to Help Out in August 2021, albeit with 30 per cent less seats due to Covid rules.

"We had added costs of masks, screens and sanitiser and extra staff to police the covid rules."

Mr Dunn said customers 'did not return as expected' before the country was plunged back into lockdown.

"We cut costs as much as possible but inevitably the business started to trade in deficit which meant we couldn't pay the landlord the monthly rent of which we were in arrears," he said.

"But I still believed we could turn things around."

However, with the war in Ukraine breaking out, there was a rise in costs of food, electricity, staffing, National Insurance, VAT 'and also bounce back loans repayments started'.

After consulting with an insolvency company, 'and looking at the mountain we had to climb', Mr Dunn said he would have been 'failing my duties as a director if I had not liquidated the business'.

He added: "I feel sorry for my team who were amazing, I'm sure they will find roles elsewhere, and I will miss all my customers."