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Store Twenty One in Sheerness failed to open today

By John Nurden

Budget fashion chain Store Twenty One has closed its shop in Sheerness.

Although staff were still working in the High Street premises last night it failed to open its doors this morning.

For weeks the shop has been selling off all its goods at knock-down prices although staff refused to confirm it was a closing down sale.

Front doors remained closed at the Store Twenty One premises today

Front doors remained closed at the Store Twenty One premises today

When asked, one member said last week: “We don’t know what is happening.”

Giant posters are still in the shop window advertising “Absolutely everything half price. Last few days.”

But this morning, one of the busiest shopping days of the week, its front doors remained bolted and the lights were off.

Ghost store The Sheerness shop with no customers

Ghost store: The Sheerness shop with no customers

Kent has two other Store Twenty One shops in Sittingbourne and Gillingham high streets.

Last month the discount chain, formerly known as Quality Seconds, filed for insolvency with the prospect of losing 1,000 jobs in its 125 stores.

Management filed a notice to appoint administrators after the company was served with a winding-up notice in April by HM Revenue and Customs for breaching the terms of last year’s company voluntary arrangement (CVA).

According to trade reports, the retailer had spent the past few weeks scrambling to raise fresh cash from its main lender, State Bank of India, ahead of a court-imposed deadline.

However, it was reported that the bank, which is owed around £14 million, refused to provide any more money.

This was despite last July’s turnaround efforts which included reducing rent payments on 80 stores, shutting 77 shops as well as slashing what suppliers were owed to just 10p in the pound.

It has been reported that landlords and suppliers have complained they had not been paid by the company for months and some staff said their wages had been paid late.

No one from Store Twenty One would comment but its advisors Alix Partners previously said the administration order hearing had been adjourned until June 9 to enable the company more time to get new cash.

It appears the trouble-torn store ran out of time.

Premises up for rent

Premises up for rent

The closure leaves Sheerness with one of its most prominent high street buildings empty. The premises, formerly a Tesco supermarket, have had a "to let" on them for months.

There is also a large unused area at the rear which was a Kent County Council library before it moved across the road into the Gateway complex in a former Woolworth building.

Store Twenty One was created by Indian-owned textile maker Grabal Alok after buying parts of the QS Stores (formerly Quality Seconds) and Bewise chains which  went into administration in 2006.

In a rush to raise funds, its owner Alok Industries is reported to have sold its head office and warehouse in Solihull.

Store Twenty One’s most recent accounts revealed a slump in sales from £92.2 million to £89.4m in 2016 with pre-tax losses growing to £9.3 million.

Have you been affected by the closure? Were you working there? Email jnurden@thekmgroup.co.uk to share your story

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