A SHOP which has become a fixture in the centre of St Neots is to close after 26 years of trading after falling victim to the recession.

Brian Cook first opened National Vacuum Cleaner Services in his garage in 1986, offering a repair service and spare parts for broken hoovers. Back then vacuum cleaners were more expensive and wieldy pieces of machinery, which meant that there was a high demand for people who could fix faults with the machines and keep them working.

The company soon moved into premises in Cambridge Street and became popular with customers who could go in and get "expert, friendly and free advice".

However, in recent years it has struggled - improved technology has meant fewer problems. Electrical goods are also cheaper, which means many people now simply buy new vacuums instead of getting them repaired, but the final nail in the coffin was the ongoing economic difficulty which has affected all businesses.

Malcolm Cook, who took over the running of the firm from his father Brian about two-and-a-half years after it opened, said: "I am quite sad that we have to shut down.

"We still get a lot of customers but now people are buying cheaper machines and just throwing them away when they don't work, rather than get repairs - even though that costs them more in the long run.

"We branched out into other areas, such as washing machine repairs and offering a plumbing service, but we started to notice a downturn three or four years ago when the economic climate changed.

"We gradually lost a lot of our commercial customers because they themselves lost their contracts. Coupled with machines being sold a lot cheaper, there was not enough work for us to continue with the shop."

Malcolm, whose mum Jackie and brother Warren have helped him with the business, said he wanted to say a heartfelt thank you to all the shop's customers over quarter of a century - but said it would not disappear completely.

A mobile service will be set up in its place, where customers can ring its current 01480 217897 number to arrange collections of vacuum cleaners for repair or for dust bags, filters, drive belts and other spares to be delivered direct.

Malcolm has not ruled out reopening the shop in future if business picks up again.

"We are very sad to be closing the shop, but hoping that our customers will contact us by phone and let us come to them," he added.

"Some people have asked us for this service before, and now we are able to make this new service possible."

The store will close its premises at the end of the month.