HUNTINGDON High Street is to lose one of its landmarks after Sports and Fashions announced it will close – and its managing director warned it would not be the last.

HUNTINGDON High Street is to lose one of its landmarks after Sports and Fashions announced it will close – and its managing director warned it would not be the last.

The store was approaching its 40th anniversary, but pressure from internet competitors, superstores and the recession spelled the end for the store, with the loss of 11 jobs.

And MD Mike Fowler predicted his business could be the first of many to close if shoppers did not return to their high streets.

“The big multiples have been having an effect for the past six or seven years, but the internet retail side has really grown in the last three years,” he said. “The economic crisis has been the final straw for us – people either do not have the money or are afraid to spend it.”

Mr Fowler said that poor post-Christmas trading figures had brought him to his final decision, and that, depending on stock sales, the business would close within the next month.

“Before we made the announcement business was almost a half down on what we expected since Christmas, though it has picked up since we announced the sale,” said Mr Fowler.

With a product range that includes sports equipment, clothes, school uniforms and toys, Sports and Fashions has always relied on two peak periods late in the year – pupils going back to school in September, and Christmas.

Despite an average back-to-school period, Christmas trading was down by 17 per cent, and Mr Fowler said there was “no glimmer of hope on the immediate horizon”.

“I’ve had sleepless nights over the decision: we have been here for 40 years.”

Mr Fowler said he believed the days of shops like Sports and Fashions flourishing were over.

“People came to us to look at our large range of racquets and get some advice, and would then go and buy it on the internet for £10 cheaper.

“Internet businesses can be run from a warehouse with few overheads.

“Until business rents and business rates are reduced, I fear for the nation’s high streets.”

Katy Sismore, manager of Huntingdon Town Partnership, said that Huntingdon was losing not just an independent retailer but a part of the community.

“It’s extraordinarily sad that Sports and Fashions is closing – it’s an iconic name on Huntingdon’s high street and will be a huge loss.

“Mike Fowler was instrumental in helping to set up Huntingdonshire Business Against Crime, and the shop regularly sponsored and donated kit to local teams.”

The updated Chequers Court development offered hope for the town centre, added Mrs Sismore.

“Huntingdon is going places. We are in a far better situation than some towns where businesses are closing down and not being replaced.”