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Business / Closure of Smiths of Lerwick marks ‘end of an era’

Lerwick is set to lose a good quality clothing store.

ANOTHER well-known shop is to disappear from Lerwick’s Commercial Street when ladies fashion retailer Smiths of Lerwick closes its doors early in the New Year.

Owners Laurence and Louise Smith confirmed on Friday that they had sold the property at 97 Commercial Street to Nicola and Magnus Johnston of the Shetland Fudge Company.

Laurence Smith said the decision to sell up marked “the end of an era” for Lerwick’s high street, which has lost its role as the hub of the community over the last 30 years. Five members of staff will be made redundant.

The news comes just weeks after the Post Office announced it is to close its main branch further along the street with services moving to newsagents Conochies.

Smiths of Lerwick started trading in September 1988, taking over what was previously part of a family business.

The ladies fashion business was successfully developed over the years to include in 1992 a specialist lingerie shop at 56 Commercial Street, an extension to the main shop completed in 1994 and the opening of The Bag and Travel Shop in 1996 at Mounthooly Street.

Over recent years the overall business has been consolidated back into the main property at 97 Commercial Street.

Looking into the future the couple decided to put the property on the market in September 2016 and, whilst there has been interest over that time, it wasn’t until earlier this year that a formal offer was made.

Smith said that for the moment it was “business as usual”, leading up to the busy Christmas period with current promotions including 20 per cent off all lingerie, nightwear, handbags, luggage and travel goods.

“We would like to take this opportunity to thank all those members of the public who have supported the business over the years,” Smith said, adding that he was particularly grateful to the business’ many long-standing and loyal customers.

“Huge thanks and appreciation also, not only to the fantastic staff working in the shop at present, but also to all the 214 girls and one guy who have worked with us in the shop over the past 31 years,” he added.

“Nicola and Magnus Johnston of the Shetland Fudge Company are a young dynamic local couple who have a vision for their own business as well as maintaining a vibrant town centre and seeing Shetland promoted well.

“We wish them every success in their exciting new venture.”

Emma Miller, the project manager of Living Lerwick, the organisation tasks with reviving the town centre, agreed that the closure was the “end of an era” but added that she wanted to focus on the positives.

“Nicola and Magnus (of Shetland Fudge Co) have ambitious and exciting plans for the building which will see locally produced food available to shoppers all year round at the street.

“Although we’re losing a good quality clothing store, this opens a gap in the market for a new business to open in one of the (few) empty spaces, allowing another local person to create jobs and contribute to our local economy.

“Our Think Local First campaign through November has shown us that people really do care about local businesses and the effort that business owners make to keep our town unique and vibrant.

“Living Lerwick will continue to be fully supportive of Smiths in their final few months of trading and we wish Louise and Laurence a very happy and well deserved retirement.”

Commercial Street is currently in the running against seven competitors to become Scotland’s most beautiful high street. The results of the contest will be announced on Monday.