STAFF at Bonmarche, who have learned they will soon be made redundant, said they are devastated that the shop is to close.
The eight women, some of whom have worked in the Newry Street store since it opened eight years ago, said they still haven’t quite come to terms with the news that theirs is one of the 160 Bonmarche shops set to close across the UK.
Deputy Manager Sandra Burns said they were told of the shop’s fate in a phonecall as they prepared to shut the shop last Monday evening. She said the atmosphere on Tuesday morning was one of shock.
“I think we were all just in shock that it had been made official,” said the 51-year-old mother-of-three. “We knew we were probably going to be bought over but other than that we knew very little about what was going on.
“We were all very emotional but we carried on working in the shop as normal - and we will do that to the last day.”
Staff, who range in age from 18 to 60, still have not received a date of closure and Sandra said they are carrying on with their final charity fundraising drive until they are told otherwise. In the shop’s eight-year existence staff estimate they have raised close to £10,000.
“Bonmarche’s official charity is Macmillan and we have run various events for that but we’ve done a lot of things for other charities as well,” said Sandra, who admitted it is the charity work she will miss the most.
“In my time I’ve abseiled down the Dromore viaduct, done a firewalk, and dressed as a rabbit while on a trike to Lurgan from Banbridge,” she laughed. “It’s all been good fun and we’ve raised a lot for charity along the way.”
Sandra has a special word of thanks for the customers who she said have never failed to give generously to all of their appeals.
“The customers have been so upset by this - it’s hard to see them, especially the older people, and the effect it’s having on them,” she said. “They have supported us the whole time we’ve been here and all the staff are so grateful.
“Over time we have come to know a lot about them and their families and I really will miss coming in and speaking to them every day. We are like a wee family in here.”
The staff’s last charity drive is for Macmillan and will see bunches of ten clothes hangers sold for 50p, with all proceeds going to the charity. “We will keep going for the charities until the very last,” added Sandra.