School uniform shop abruptly shutting doors after 35 years leaving parents devastated – but it's not all bad news | The Sun

A SCHOOL uniform shop is closing after 35 years of business, but it's not all bad news for shoppers.

Little Gems, in Castle Dene Shopping Centre, Peterlee, County Durham, is pulling down shutters for the final time on November 1.

Marie Ibbitson, owner of The School Outfit which runs Little Gems, said keeping the shop open was not "feasible" as it could not cover its expenses.

But, it's not all bad news as The School Outfit will remain trading online, while other locations in Washington and Sunderland are staying open.

Marie told The Northern Echo, which first reported the closure: "We're staying in business and we're going to do pop-up shops in the schools.

"We're going to go into the schools and sell uniforms in the schools, delivered to them like a free delivery service as opposed to normal delivery costs."

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She added: "We've been in The Chare in Peterlee for over 30-35 odd years now, it's just the way the centre's going, all the shops are closing in the centre."

The store's closure has been met with devastation by locals.

One said: "Peterlee at this rate is going to be a ghost town," while a second said: "Holy hell wats (sic) going on in that town centre, literally nothing is left."

A third said: "That's so sad. Shop has been ran well for years staff are so helpful."

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Meanwhile, a fourth added: "Another one bites the dust."

The high street has been hit hard in recent years as shoppers increasingly turn to online retail.

The trend was made worse during the coronavirus pandemic.

Data from the Centre for Retail Research reveals online shopping accounted for 19.2% of the retail market share in 2019 compared to 26.5% in 2022.

High inflation since 2022 has seen households' budgets squeezed too meaning they've got less expendable cash.

That, combined with high energy and wage costs, has seen a number of businesses forced to close stores.

In July, Boots Pharmacy said it would be closing 300 branches as part of plans to consolidate its portfolio.

Meanwhile, a number of retailers have crashed into administration including Cath Kidston, Paperchase, M&Co and Wilko.

But it's not all bad news as a number of retailers have been expanding amid the closures.

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Supermarket chain Iceland has been opening stores, with some under the Iceland Local brand.

Primark, Poundland and B&M have all been growing their portfolios too.

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