SHOPPERS have reacted after Next became one of the latest big name brands to call time on its Colchester town centre store.

The fashion company has an out-of-town shop at Tollgate Shopping Centre Park in Stanway.

But its town centre shop has now been put up for let and is being rented out through property consultancy Prime Retail.

In a bid to attract tenants, the listing points out the unit is in the vicinity of Marks and Spencer.

Later this year, however, the famous store will be shut down after nearly 100 years in the town and relocated to larger premises at Stane Retail Park in Stanway.

Gazette: Maarten West (right)Maarten West (right)

Maarten Westera, who is leading a campaign urging Marks and Spencer’s bosses to rethink their plans, said the Next closure is another body blow to Colchester town centre.

He said: “It is sad and baffles us this happens without anyone being informed in advance.

“I’m sure if they notified the council and their customers then they might have been able to do something to help.

“Was the store losing money or is this about not making big enough margins? I doubt the store was losing money.”

Independent business owner Karen Nicolaou runs Aspects of Beauty, while her husband owns Greek restaurant Bellapais.

She said: “Tollgate is a giant car park with shops around it - it is ugly and boring.

“Buzzing town centres with vibrant coffee shops and little side streets to wander around and browse cannot be beaten.

“The whole atmosphere of strolling around the town is a pleasant experience but sadly all the shops are disappearing because rents are high and parking is expensive.

“I actually did not know Next had gone until I walked past an empty shop, but I was then gutted to see another empty unit."

Gazette: Next's store in StanwayNext's store in Stanway

Maureen Powell has also been left shocked by the loss of Next.

She added: “This is another nail in the coffin for our town and this will have a huge impact on Colchester.”

Sam Good, business improvement district manager for Our Colchester, reminded shoppers the town centre's vacancy rate of nine per cent is lower than the national average of 13 per cent.

“It is a real shame to see Next close their High Street premises after trading successfully for so long.

"We understand that Next’s decision to permanently close this store is down to the investment needed in the premises to get it to the companies new brand standards.

We are currently working with multiple national organisations who are extremely interested in opening a new premises within the town alongside supporting our current National businesses in continuing their strong performances since reopening from Covid restrictions.

"We have recently commissioned an external organisation to develop a Retail Vision for the town centre to ensure Colchester town centre is evolving to the changing wants and needs of our residents and visitors.

"Despite this closure, Colchester Town Centre continues to lead regionally in a remarkably low vacancy rate of 9 per cent against national average of 13 per cent with more openings that closure since the start of the pandemic."