THE Bournemouth branch of Steamer Trading suddenly closed for business today.

Staff were seen removing stock from the shelves and the main doors were locked.

A sign on the door of the kitchenware retailer reads: "This store has ceased trading.

"Your nearest store is Dorchester, Southampton or Lymington.

"Thank you."

Steamer Trading’s branch in Southampton remained open today, with staff there saying they would be open as usual all day. The Dorchester branch was also open as usual.

Meanwhile, staff at Bournemouth’s branch declined to comment to the Echo.

The branch’s separate in-store cafe, run by the Real Eating Company, has also been forced to close. 

Real Eating Company manager Helena Hudson said: “We’re really disappointed that we have to close our cafe in Steamer Trading as we’ve been there for almost 10 years.

"But it’s been well documented that the retail environment is very tough at the moment.

“We would love to see all our Steamer Trading customers in our other Bournemouth cafe on Yelverton Road and hope that our customers will continue to support us and other good independent businesses in Bournemouth.”

When the Echo contact Steamer Trading Head Office, we were told they had no information to give on any shop closures.

Chief operating officer for Bournemouth Town Centre Business Improvement District (BID) Paul Kinvig said: “It is obviously deeply saddening to see another high street name close its doors and again it is indicative of the challenging times all retailers are facing.

“However, over the Christmas period our town was thronging with people and initial indicators to the BID are that quite a number of town centre businesses - both independents and chains - did at least as well as last year and in a good number of cases improved on 2017 performance. 

“All of us with an interest in the life and success of our town centre need to redouble our efforts to support businesses in their fight to survive and  thrive.”

Its closure comes after the town enjoyed increased footfall over the Christmas period, with many shoppers attracted to the Christmas Tree Wonderland.

Organisers of the event say it was visited by almost one million people.

Nationally, retail sales growth flatlined during the month of December.

It was the worst Christmas performance for a decade, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC)-KPMG retails sales monitor.