Closure dates announced for Focus DIY stores at Beccles, Lowestoft, North Walsham and Wymondham

Administrators for DIY chain Focus have announced that all stores - including a number of Norfolk and Suffolk branches - will be closed within the next few days.

The firm has published a time line for closures, which will see most shops shut down by the end of the month.

All remaining stock held by the company will be cleared in sales already under way which promise discounts of up to 70pc.

The recession and its effect on the housing market had hit the DIY chain hard in recent years.

It had 178 stores before entering administration on May 5 including branches at Wymondham, Thetford, Beccles, Sudbury, Haverhill, Thetford, North Walsham and Fakenham.

However, the administrators later managed to sell 31 stores to B&Q and Kingfisher, including Fakenham, Thetford, Sudbury and Haverhill.

Several more stores were also sold to Wickes and B&M Bargains.

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But since then it has failed to find a buyer for its remaining properties across the UK.

Now it has announced that it will be closing all of its existing stores, releasing firm dates for most.

The Ipswich and Wymondham stores will close on Monday, Harwich, Kettering and North Walsham on Tuesday, Beccles and Lowestoft on Wednesday, with those at Bishops Stortford, Fakenham, Spalding, Sudbury and Thetford to be confirmed.

A member of staff at North Walsham's store said 20 people would lose their jobs - of whom about a quarter were full time. Staff had only been told on Friday, June 10, that the store would close and none had yet found alternative employment.

She said: 'There is nothing out there.'

On Thursday, Focus customers Justin Brown and Katie Marsh, of North Walsham, said they were not surprised that the store was closing because they felt prices were too expensive.

Ms Marsh said: 'Hopefully, somewhere like Roys will expand into the building. It's ideally positioned, with lots of parking.'

Mr Brown said that the edge-of-town site might appeal to Tesco or Morrisons. North Walsham already has Sainsbury's and Lidl supermarkets.

Emma and Bryan Pearce, from Mundesley, were filling their boot with cut-price decorating items but said they previously only shopped at Focus if they ran out of an item which they needed urgently and couldn't get to B&Q.

The Focus store in Fakenham has been on Enterprise Way for nine years.

Its closure day is to be confirmed, but it has already been announced that it will be replaced by a B&Q DIY store.

Adam Birt, manager of the Fakenham Focus store, said there are 17 members of staff there, a mixture of full time and part time workers, and all faced an uncertain future as B&Q will not be automatically taking them on.

Mr Birt said: 'We've got many customers who have been coming here since we opened nine years ago and many have told us that they will be sad to see us go. It's not so bad for the town though with another DIY store coming here.

'But a lot of our customers have been sad to see that all of the guys that work here do not have guaranteed jobs for the future and have been very generously making donations towards the staff.'

Stock at the large Wymondham store, in the Gateway 11 Business Park, has been heavily discounted and the shelves are rapidly emptying.

Staff were unable to comment on its impending closure, but customers said they would be sad to see the store's doors shut for the final time.

Shopper Jon Cater, of Wymondham, said: 'I use them for a few gardening things. It's sad and I feel sorry for the staff. It seems to be the way things are going at the minute.'

Another customer, who declined to be named, added: 'It's going to be really sad. It's a big store and one of the best places around here for wallpaper and home items. It will be missed.'

A statement released by the administrators Ernst & Young said: 'Employees have been offered appropriate support and advice throughout the redundancy process and Jobcentre Plus representatives are providing support to help find future employment.

'The administrators are continuing to seek proposals for all unsold stores and remain hopeful of preserving further jobs.'

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