SHOPPERS are worried for the future of the town centre as its oldest store is set to close.

Townrow, on Braintree High Street, announced last week the store was closing due to increased running costs.

Shoppers thought it could be the death of the town centre.

Jacqui Bull, a regular shopper, said: "This is really sad, surely now something has to be done to save Braintree?

"I feel really strongly that we are not going to have anything left.

"I just think that no one will visit the town soon, then we will lose everything.

"I think now is the time for something to be done about all our shops."

Liz Storey, from the Braintree Town Team, said it was an opportunity for a big retailer to move in.

She said: "I think it's very sad they are going but it's not exactly surprising.

"The stock levels lately have not been particularly high and their contribution to the town has not been there for some time.

"It will be a fabulous opportunity for a big retailer who is committed to the town to come in, it will be positive."

Edward Townrow, managing director, had said it had been a difficult decision.

Charles Townrow opened the store in 1871 and it is said the only known holiday he took was in 1898 for a two-week trip to Clacton.

Claire Willetts, from Braintree Museum, said: “It is Braintree’s oldest surviving family business.

"It is extremely sad to hear of its closure and the disappearance of a historic feature of the town’s High Street."

Some residents felt there was a wider issue, saying the town centre needed attention.

Peter Bayley, a resident, said he has watched the town centre's go downhill.

He said: "There is a chronic lack of regard and more importantly, expertise in Braintree Council for the development of the High Street and town centre.

"What is the plan to fill those units quickly with retailers who add something to the town centre?

"Will Braintree Council let them lay empty like so many others?

"I have lived here for over 25 years and have watched the town centre failure gradually worsen as Freeport became the best-performing Freeport unit in the country.

"We are minutes from that and its regularly huge crowds, 15 minutes from one of the world's biggest airports, we are on the busiest east-west route in the country, we have a large, growing and increasingly affluent population, is there really no one at the council who can make a successful town centre from all of that?"

Tom Cunningham, councillor responsible for economic growth at Braintree Council, said they are in contact with the management team at Townrow.

He said: “We’re sorry to hear of the closure of Townrow – as one of the oldest stores in the county it is especially poignant.

"Running a business is difficult with unprecedented challenges and changes in the habits of shoppers.

"High Streets are changing and we need to unlock our town centres’ future potential.

"I am especially thinking of Townrow staff at this time and we’ve been in touch with their management team alongside the Job Centre offering support and advice.

“We’ll continue to work with town centre businesses and residents to find a way to make Braintree a prosperous and sustainable place to shop, work, access services, socialise and enjoy leisure time.

"I believe Braintree has huge potential, we just have to rethink what we need and want from our high streets.”