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Playtime is over for Bournemouth Early Learning Centre
BOURNEMOUTH town centre’s last dedicated toy shop is closing its doors for the last time.
The Early Learning Centre in Old Christchurch Road is one of 75 that owners Mothercare are closing as it looks to concentrate on more out of town style retail outlets.
With eight staff and no other dedicated children’s shop nearby, it is another blow for the high street following a string of closures.
A member of staff at the shop, where some have worked for more than 14 years, said they were “very sad” saying goodbye to colleagues and customers.
The woman, who asked not to be named, said: “The staff here are like a family.
“There’s not another toy shop in Bournemouth and we’ve seen children grow up and come back with their own children.”
There are toys on sale at department stores and other outlets in the town centre but the Early Lear-ning Centre is the last shop exclusively selling toys and educational goods. Customers left messages of thanks and sadness in a message book on the counter and a blackboard has been showing the notice “Jobs needed for experienced staff, seek within!”.
The employees are still in a consultation period in which redeployment to other stores is being discussed.
They voiced regret that the shop had not moved to Castlepoint and the closure comes as Mothercare looks to concentrate on its out of town stores.
A spokesman said there had been no store closure notice for the Early Learning Centre in Poole’s Dolphin Centre and the Mothercare store at Poole Retail Park at Redlands, close to Homebase, has an Early Learning Centre section within it.
Last month Bournemouth Borough Council’s town centre manager Roger Parker spoke of the challenges facing the high street with rents on some of the 25 vacant shops, like the former Dorothy Perkins store, at more than £200,000.
Reacting to this latest closure, councillor Mike Greene is hoping future investment will attract more businesses.
He said: “Some of the really quite exciting plans for the town centre and Westover Road area will mean businesses will be queuing up in a couple of years.”
A Mothercare spokesman said the store would close on Thursday, June 19 though staff at the store have been saying the 16.
The spokesman said: “The closure of this store is in line with our current portfolio plan.
“We hope this has not upset any customers.”