Shock closure of Dereham’s shopping “institution”

There was shock and sadness this week as it emerged that Dereham shopping 'institution' Chambers was to close after more than 180 years of trading in Market Place.

The popular newsagents, stationers and bookstore, famously positioned under the town sign, would shut for good on December 23, owner the Co-operative Group announced this week.

Staff were told the news on Monday, and all 11 – two full-time and nine part-time – could now face redundancy early in the new year.

The Co-operative Group, which is believed to have taken over the business around 10 years ago, has cited the store's 'poor trading performance' as a reason for its decision.

But shoppers and the town's first citizen reacted with surprise to that news.

'This is a terrible thing for Dereham,' said town mayor Michael Fanthorpe. 'Chambers has been an institution in Dereham for many years. It is terribly important to the town and is in a shopping prime position. I think it's dreadful.'

Local historian Kitty Lynn said a shop had at been at the site since 1830 – she believes the original building is the one that's still in use.

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It was first owned by Edward Acres Ashness, a printer, bookseller and stationer, and took on the Chambers name in 1950 when former journalist William Chambers took over.

The printing press and offices in the yard behind Chambers were demolished to make way for the town's Nelson Place shopping precinct in the early 1970s.

William Chambers died in 1971 and the business stayed in the family until his son, Colin, finally sold up in April 1993.

A spokesman for the Co-Operative Group said: 'Staff at the store have been informed of the decision, which has been taken with the greatest regret.

'The decision is not, in any way, a reflection on the commitment and hard work of the store team, but is due to the store's poor trading performance and the fact that, as a newsagents, it does not fit with our existing businesses.

'Every effort will be made to redeploy as many as possible of the two full time and nine part-time staff, or to help them find alternative employment.'

The news comes hot on the heels of Co-Op's decision to shut the food store and post office in nearby Necton, near Swaffham.

The East of England Co-Operative Society has run the store since 2004 and has blamed a 30pc rent hike for its decision to close both businesses in the village.

It is not yet known when the Hale Road store, formerly a Spar, will close for good but 15 jobs are now at risk.

'We cannot lose the village shop and the post office – it will decimate the village,' said parish clerk James Watling.

'The parish council will be fighting this all the way because it is a vital service in the village. The shop is well supported from the village and the post office is also very well used by the residents.'

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