THE MOLLY’S Den vintage emporium chain has gone bust with 26 people losing their jobs.

Shocked traders at the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Winchester stores – where independent traders pay rental to have a stall – received the news yesterday.

The news comes less than two months after the former company director, John East-Rigby, died at his New Forest home following a gunshot wound to his head.

Traders at Molly's Den told the Echo they had just paid their July rental, which can be up to £500 a month for the largest pitches. One trader has claimed that the month’s collective rental for the three Molly’s Den stores could be as much as £50,000.

A Bournemouth-based Molly's Den trader who asked not to be named, said: “I got a phone call yesterday at 4.15pm saying what had happened so I contacted the manager later on and he said that the administrators or liquidators just went in and changed the locks on the doors and made them all redundant.”

He had just paid his share of a £525 a month stall fee and calculates that if he loses the money from sales already made, he will be more than £1,000 out of pocket.

Some traders have taken to social media to complain that the first they knew of the closure was on social media.

Writing on the Bournemouth Molly’s Den Facebook Page, Louise Brigden said: “We have all just paid our month’s rent up front and we are only three days in. Plus, any sales we have made and not so much as an email from them. What if you don’t do social media?”

Other traders did receive an email from L P Proudly Associates, which has been appointed to sell the enterprise, said the company had ceased trading and would ‘shortly be entering into liquidation’.

Another poster said Molly’s Den, whose company director is listed at Companies House as Cherry Ann East-Rigby, who lives in Mockbeggar near Ringwood, as ‘greedy and just absolutely disgusting’

Liquidators RSM Restructuring Advisory said it had been instructed to assist in placing M D Emporium, the company which owns the Molly’s Den brand, into liquidation.

“Trading at all of the Company’s sites in Winchester, Bournemouth and Christchurch ceased on July 2 2019 with all 26 staff having to be made redundant,” they said, adding that their agents, Proudley Associates of Ringwood, were ‘liaising with traders in order to have their goods collected’.

In a separate statement to traders Proudley’s, which is seeking to sell the Molly’s Den brand, confirmed it would be opening up the three sites next week for traders to collect their wares. “We will be opening up the Bournemouth, Christchurch and Winchester sites on Monday 8th, Tuesday 9th and Wednesday 10th July 2019 in order for you to remove your goods,” it said.

All other businesses at the Emporium site in Avon Works, Christchurch, have been unaffected by the closure of Molly's Den and continue to trade.

Under its previous ownership the Christchurch branch of Molly's Den was at the centre of a protracted planning battle in 2017.

Proposals for a mixed use at the former factory building were finally approved more than 900 days after it was opened for business.

After a drawn out planning application process, which included deferral from a Christchurch Borough Council planning committee meeting earlier this year, the proposals were unanimously approved by committee members.

The battle mirrored one fought at the former premises of the Winchester Molly's Den in 2014, when it opened up on the site despite having no planning consent for retail trade.