A north Norfolk market town’s longest-surviving shop is set to close a fortnight earlier than feared, despite a 2,000-plus signature protest petition and an offer of help from the area’s MP.

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North Walsham residents and town leaders were shocked when they heard last month that Stead and Simpson, on Market Place, would close its doors on December 8 after more than a century’s trading in the town.

Now the six staff have been told by bosses that the shoe shop will actually shut on November 24 - and all pleas for a rethink appear to have fallen on deaf ears.

North Norfolk MP Norman Lamb wrote asking for a meeting with a head office chief to try and find a solution which would keep the shop trading and save jobs.

But he has had a brief reply from Charles Smith, deputy chief executive of Shoe Zone, which bought out Stead and Simpson four years ago.

Mr Smith wrote: “Unfortunately lease negotiations with our landlord have broken down and there is nothing further we can do about this.”

Mr Lamb described the letter as “negative, perfunctory and abrupt” and said Mr Smith had not even responded to his request for a meeting.

“I had offered to help with negotiations with the landlord if necessary. I am extremely disappointed that they are not even willing to meet the MP given that the staff have worked loyally for many years,” he added.

And Mr Lamb, a lawyer who specialised in employment before becoming an MP, said the staff might have grounds for unfair dismissal since there did not appear to have been any consultation on the closure.

“Losing a job at any time is traumatic but at a time when families are preparing for Christmas it is especially distressing,” he added.

Branch manager Margaret Westgate, who has worked at the shop since leaving school 37 years ago, said staff and customers were very upset.

People had been flocking to sign the petition. “They have grown up with this shop and feel that it’s theirs. They are absolutely devastated,” said Miss Westgate who added that she knew the shop made a profit.

Her request for the head of retail to visit and listen to customers’ opinions had not been answered.

In a statement to the EDP, Naomi Shefford, marketing and property director for Shoe Zone, confirmed the earlier closing date.

She said closure was “due to poor sales performance and rising costs which make this location unsustainable.”

Ms Shefford added: “Our decision to close is not, in any way, a reflection on the commitment and hard work of our staff. Every effort will be made to re-deploy any personnel affected to nearby stores wherever possible.”

7 comments

  • Who does Charles Smith think he is?!? Firing good honest employees just before Christmas! This store has been in the town for years. Does loyalty not count for anything these days? Thank you Shoezone of Leicester don’t bother about us in East Anglia.

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    Overstrander

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

  • North Walsham is no different to most other small Towns in that it can no longer sustain major National non food retailers. They may have got 2,000 signatures but how many of those people will have bought a pair of shoes there in the last year? Probably not many.

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    DAVID WILLGRESS

    Friday, November 16, 2012

  • I agree with Karen Henrys comment, there are days when I look at the town and think I wish I didnt have to live here. Too many second hand shops, and takeaways. You couldnt visit North Walsham and think Wow......... Im hoping Steads doen not close, but if it does where are we meant to buy shoes!!! Dont like the shoes in Roys, Mortons too expensive, so that means for people already struggling with money, have now got to go Norwich. Not good if you are an OAP, or have young children, Unless the shop in Cromer is being saved.............

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    susiewong

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

  • Very simply, North Walsham is 25 mins away from a very good shopping city with 2 modern shopping malls to offer a wide variety of goods. Why would you go for the restricted choice available in an outdated market town ?, also there so many online outlets to buy anything you want ,and have it delivered to your door, often at prices even big city stores cannot match. North Walsham's only hope is that it gets a big supermarket selling non food as well as food items on the outskirts of town. As I have said before market towns are not suitable for 21st century retailing.

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    "Bin here all me life"

    Friday, November 16, 2012

  • Norman Lamb and his government are making it easier to fire at will. Now he's shocked at a company actually doing it. Pity he doesn't stand up and stop these things when he's in Westminster, huh?

    Report this comment

    Jeffrey Osborne

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

  • I can't see why North Walsham can't either attract the likes of Tesco Express or even Have a retail park built on the vast derelict landsites available. North Walsham is going to the dogs, its full of second hand shops and food outlets. Nobody wants to visit there anymore. I mean, the connexions building, which helped the youngsters of North Walsham was shut and what did the council grant permission for? Another church!! Stupid I call it. If North Walsham doesn't get anymore supermarkets granted permission then there will be no reason to go there at all.

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    Karen Henry

    Thursday, November 15, 2012

  • Karen Henry - you're jumping the gun a bit there - the council HAS NOT granted permission for a church in the old Connexions building. It has been applied for but is still going through the planning process. I do, however, desperately hope that it is refused!

    Report this comment

    Walsham Boy

    Friday, November 16, 2012

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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