YET another Lewes business bit the dust this week with the shock announcement that Stead and Simpson was to cease trading.
The long-established shoe shop is located in the Cliffe Precinct, almost next door to Clinton Cards which closed last week.
Staff at Stead and Simpson were only told the branch would be axed on Friday. No reason was given by head office, but locally it is suspected high rent and rates are to blame.
Six people work at the shop – and one member of staff has been there for 18 years.
Branch manager Jo Bladon said: “We’re all a bit gutted.” No specific closure date has been announced, she added, but this week closure notices covered the shop windows.
The 200 Stead and Simpson stores nationally were acquired by the Shoe Zone Group in 2008. The Leicester-based outfit refused to comment on the Lewes closure.
Cllr Stephen Catlin, Independent on Lewes Town Council, said: “I think it’s a disaster. I’ve never seen so many empty shops in the town.
“In this country there’s nothing to stop landlords asking what they like in rent but in France and Germany commercial rent is pegged at the rate of inflation.
“This is an opportunity for the UK Government to act and do something to help businesses.”
Stead and Simpson can trace its origins back to 1834. The website said that significant investment in store refits was bringing many of the established outlets up to date with “a modern, simple but brighter feel”.
Parent company Shoe Zone, with 800 outlets around the UK and Ireland, specialises in selling footwear at low prices.
The company sells approximately 30 million pairs of footwear per year – just under one per second.
The demise of the Lewes branch of Stead and Simpson comes hard on the heels of the axe falling on Clinton Cards nearby as part of a 350-store closure programme. In terms of UK stores, it is the biggest collapse of a listed retailer since Woolworths in 2008. Clinton Cards’ administration follows that of Game and Peacocks earlier this year.