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House of Fraser: Memories and regrets as Shrewsbury store closes for good – with PICTURES

By Rob Smith | Shrewsbury | News | Published: | Last Updated:

Shrewsbury's House of Fraser has closed for good, and the famous branch marked its final day with a bitter-sweet reunion of former staff who shared their memories.

Customers and former staff alike were sad to see the brand leave Shrewsbury – but said it had suffered from parking charges in the town and changing high street culture.

The former Rackhams and Della Porta shop is one of the oldest in the town, and had been run by House of Fraser since 1975.

In 2016 a new cafe was opened and the interior was refitted, but the brand's difficulties led to the company entering administration last year before being bought out by Mike Ashley's Sports Direct, who ultimately decide to close the store.

On its last day, the store had much of its stock moved downstairs to be picked off by bargain hunters, while some was prepared to be shipped off to surviving branches, such as the one in Telford.

One of those to attend the store today was Kirsten Lowe, who moved to Shrewsbury to work at the shop in 1988 and stayed for seven years.

She told the Shropshire Star: "I feel very emotional about it all. I knew it would be emotional and I brought a lot of tissues.

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"I am still friends with a lot of the people I worked with. We see each other intermittently and we still keep in touch, and that is over a 30-year period.

"There were loads of characters here. I don't know what it is but I compare it to other places I have worked and it is not the same."

Kirsten, now 48, was one of a number of ex-employees invited to the store's last day on Saturday.

The branch, which inhabited a 1920s building on the town's High Street, was axed after Sports Direct bought the struggling chain out of administration.

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Kirsten said the famous brand's struggles were down to a change in shopping habits.

"People used to come here for their wedding outfits, it was a special occasion to come here.

"If your parents had something special to get ready for they would come here.

"It's not really like that anymore though. People don't do that kind of thing as much.

"I joined straight out of school, it was my first job, I got engaged here, I bought a house while I was here.

"There were a lot of firsts for me here. It will be very sad for it to go."

Gutting

Kirsten's former colleague Christine Brookes, 61, agreed, adding: "Words can't describe how much I will miss the people.

"It is gutting, it's not right really. It has always been a prominent part of the town.

"There isn't really anything like it in Shrewsbury. This used to be the place to come to shop."

Christine worked at the shop between 1974 and 1992.

Customers visiting the shop today for the clearance sales decried the loss of the famous brand from Shrewsbury, but said high parking costs in the town were a contributory factor in its demise.

Malcolm Gregory, 60, lives in the town and passed through the shop.

He said: "With the aggressive anti-parking measures in the town it does make it difficult.

"You go to the Merry Hill centre and it is chaotic, but you get free parking.

"You don't get the choice here you get in a city or online, that is a problem.

"If you go to Birmingham you get more choice, more stuff being available online also hasn't helped.

Sad

"They say everything changes but you – and that's true. It is a sad day though.

"I actually remember when it was Della Porta and my late gran rented a television from upstairs."

Ray Edge, 76, was helping his wife Barbara celebrate her 75th birthday with a trip to the town centre.

The Shrewsbury regulars said the town would suffer from the loss.

Ray said: "It is a traditional store that we can ill-afford to lose.

"The big stores attract people into town to do their shopping.

"Parking is a big issue in this town. It's so expensive to park here. Luckily we come on the bus but not everyone can.

"I would like to see it split up into smaller stores. It is big enough but the front needs to be preserved, it is a lovely building."

Tony Sleigh, 53, who lives in the town, added: "It's sad for the store to close but everyone shops online now.

"I do shop online so I'm part of the problem.

"It's nice to have a mooch around looking for things to buy but it's not as convenient.

"It's sad but that's the way it goes."

Rob Smith

By Rob Smith
Reporter

Senior reporter for the Shropshire Star based at Ketley in Telford.

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