A PAIR of fashion and furniture stores have permanently closed in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Both the Laura Ashley store on Stadium Way, Rayleigh, and the shop in Basildon’s Westgate Shopping Centre announced the closure last week.

Laura Ashley re-opened branches in June to run a closing down sale, which has now ended.

Pictures from inside the Basildon shop showed empty shelves and vacant space.

As part of the closing down sale, all stock was made 40 per cent off, with furniture, lighting, and bedding all made half price.

About 721 jobs will be lost across the country.

Shoppers have expressed their sadness at the shop’s demise, with Ian Ward, councillor in charge of planning at Rochford Council, who used the shop regularly, saying: “It is a shame to see any business leaving.

“They did sell some really nice things and I did buy from them quite a bit.

“They were quite popular and were a staple of the country’s high streets.”

Since launching in the 1950s, the brand became synonymous with high end patterned goods and home furnishings.

Mr Ward added: “Everything’s moving in the same direction.

“Businesses need to be flexible and think own their feet.

“They need to be adaptable, imaginative, and think outside the box.”

Cheryl Roe, deputy leader of Rochford Council, told the Echo of her disappointment at losing such a major retailer.

She said: “I’m disappointed to see any business close.

“Clearly the pandemic has had an affect on the business.

“We’re all upset. It was a very popular shop.”

A spokesman from Pricewaterhouse Coopers, the administrators overseeing the situation, said: “We can confirm that both the Basildon and Rayleigh Laura Ashley stores have now been closed with the lease on both properties being surrendered last week.”