Essex department store Havens is closing down in January, after 116 years of trading on the high street of Westcliff-on-Sea.
The independent family-owned business has signed an agreement for let its Grade II listed building on Hamlet Court Road to charity Age Concern Southend.
The agreement is subject to achieving change of use planning approval from Southend Borough Council, along with some necessary small alterations.
Once planning is achieved, the plan is for Havens to trade through this Christmas and finally close by the end of January. The closing down sale is ongoing now as it clears stock and buys in some offers and deals supported by its suppliers.
Havens will retain the top floor of the 10,000sq ft three-storey building to continue trading online through its websites www.havens.co.uk and www.justglassware.co.uk. The retailer said ‘there may well be a click and collect facility for local customers too’.
Age Concerns stressed that the building ‘will not be a large charity shop’ but will be developed into a community centre for older people to gain access to its services. Havens owners and directors Nigel and Paul Havens and their father Graham said they are “delighted” with the decision.
Nigel commented: “The Havens Store is a non-viable anachronism in today’s retail world. It was established in 1901 by the Havens family as a smaller shop across the road. The current building was bought as a freehold in 1920. Two floors were added and it was expanded in 1935 to 10,000sq ft and developed as a bespoke retail store.
“The last 10 years has seen a huge shift in the way consumers take in news and use services like banking – and, indeed, shopping – where the internet provides many of the answers. Yes, the consumer says they like to touch and feel things, but too many will then resort to buying online. We know this as we first started trading online in 1999 and the growth of our website is equalled by the decline in the store sales.”
He added: “The revitalisation and future of Hamlet Court Road, and many other secondary High Streets across the country, will be driven by community services, leisure, culture and dwelling – reasons for people to get back to them and use them. With footfall returning, you will then see the re-emergence of small specialist independent retailers.
“Inevitably, Havens customers have been inquisitive about the future of the much-loved building. When told that a community project is on the cards, they felt – without exception – that it is a great concept.”