THE owners of a Boscombe gift shop say they were ‘forced to close by excessive rates and rents’.

The branch of Happy Buddha in the Sovereign Centre closed shortly before Christmas. Four people lost their jobs as a result of the closure.

In a statement published on the company’s Facebook page, owners blame business rates and rent for the sudden closure.

“Our Boscombe shop has now closed. We are sorry for any inconvenience that this may have caused, but unfortunately due to excessive business rates and rents, we could no longer operate at the Sovereign Centre,” the statement reads.

“We are still open at Happy Buddha Bournemouth and Happy Buddha Poole and do hope to see you all there this year.”

A further post made on the page reads: “Shame on Bournemouth Borough Council (and Poole Borough Council) for charging us nearly £1,000 per month per shop, for ‘providing’ zero contracted services on ‘our behalf’, making it impossible for us to make any profit at all, and forcing us to lay off four staff members at Christmas.

“We will fight on though... Happy Buddha will survive to see another year.”

The Echo has asked the councils for a comment. It is understood the rent is set by the Sovereign Centre. Business rates are set by central government.

Happy Buddha, which began as a stall at Wimborne Market, sells ethically-sourced and fair trade aromatherapy goods, soaps, candles, incense and collectable Buddhas.

The company’s shops at 86 High Street Poole and 7 Richmond Gardens Shopping Centre in Bournemouth are open.