End of an era as Jarrold shuts its Lowestoft store

The managing director of Jarrold said the decision to close the firm's Lowestoft store was driven by a downturn in trade.

The East Anglian retailer, with stores in Norwich, Cromer, and Wymondham, will close its only north Suffolk branch tomorrow . Five members of staff are being made redundant.

It will mark the end of an era for the trusted family-run firm which has had a stationary store in Lowestoft since 1907.

Speaking yesterday MD Peter Mitchell blamed, in part, the huge disruptions felt by the town when major roadworks were carried out on the bascule bridge in 2008 and 2009.

'It's been a very sad decision to have to make,' he said.

'It's driven by the downturn in trade we've experienced in Lowestoft in recent years.

'The disruptions in the town have not been good for trade - it was very difficult to get into Lowestoft at one point. We stuck with it, hoping see a recovery but 18 months on we have reached the point where the store is no longer viable.'

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Manager David Stevenson, who has worked for Jarrold & Son for 18 years – nine of those in Lowestoft, has taken up an offer to relocate to the flagship Norwich store. Two full time, two part time, and one Saturday workers will lose their jobs.

Backing Mr Mitchell's sentiments, Mr Stevenson said: 'It's been increasingly difficult to trade in the town over the past three or four years.

'It is a very sad day when we have to shut shops like this down.

'There have been many factors against the town's trade, particularly the roadworks on the bridge, and that's put the nail in the coffin.

'It's not easy by any means and it's particularly hard in Lowestoft where quite a few businesses are cutting back and not taking people on.'

Mr Stevenson added that as a company has 'hated' having to close the branch.

Mr Mitchell said, while steeped in history, the most important factor was to look after staff. He also reassured customers that no other Jarrold stores are closing.

He said: 'No other stores in our portfolio are on a danger list.

'As a business we worked hard to develop the branch by adding crafts and arts products which worked to attract people from both counties. But this is a store that has been struggling for the last few years.'

The company arrived in the town 104 years ago. The first store was located on the corner of Beach Road and London Road North and, in the 1990s, moved to Beach Road.

Closing down signs appeared in store just over a week ago and shelves have quickly being emptied by customers taking advantage of a half price sale.

'It's been manic since we put the posters up,' said Mr Stevenson.

'Saturday will be the final day for customers and then, over the next week, we'll be sorting everything out and sending any remaining stock to Norwich.

'It's going to be a very sad, very difficult day for everyone.'

After almost 240 years and seven generations of family ownership, Jarrold is one of the most familiar business names in the two counties. It currently employs just under 450 people.

The company started life in Suffolk with a drapers and grocers store in Woodbridge. The business expanded to printing in 1815 and within a decade moved onto selling books and stationery. It now has four operating businesses: Jarrold Retail, Jarrold Property, Jarrold Training and the St James Facility Management Business