SOUTHEND’S oldest department store is to shut its doors for good after 120 years of serving the town.

Ravens, in Clifftown Road, will close down at the end of October.

Neil Raven is the current managing director of the store and the fourth generation of the family to run the business.

He has taken the tough decision to retire and sell off the premises.

He said: “My family and I are proud to have been a part of Southend’s history.

“We have built many personal relationships with our customers over the years and we would like to take this opportunity to thank all our loyal staff, customers and suppliers without whom we couldn’t have continued or been so successful.”

The 16 members of staff working at the store were given the sad news this week.

Mr Raven, 60, added: “This hasn’t been an easy decision and is something we have thought long and hard about.

“It will be sad to see the store go but we have reached retirement age and we feel the time is right.”

The store is is being sold to an undisclosed buyer. Mr Raven confirmed that the new owner does not plan to continue operating as a retail unit.

Ann Holland, councillor responsible for culture, tourism and the economy in Southend, said the loss of the independent store would be a huge blow for the town.

She said: “I’m really sorry to hear this. I wish them well in their well-deserved retirement. They will be greatly missed as a well-respected company.

“I hope something good will be created there and would have wished it to continue as a retail outlet.”

Julian Ware-Lane, Labour councillor for the Milton ward, echoed the view that Southend will be a poorer place without the landmark store.

He said: “I’m shocked, very surprised to hear this. It is one of those places I go to buy a special gift.

“It’s disappointing to se another high end retailer disappear from the High Street area.

“It’s a sign of the times I’m afraid.

“Continuing austerity is not working and this is reflected in retailers struggling.”

Ravens are now organising a grand summer sale both in store and online on Saturday.

There will be lots of bargains to be had between now and October.

All sale items will be available on a first come, first served basis.

Stock for the autumn season will continue to arrive and be added to the sale over the coming months.

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