WHEN the Dorothy Perkins and Evans fashion businesses run in the same Littlehampton shopping centre premises closed for the last time on Saturday (April 28), the town lost more than just two High Street chains.
Store managers Sue Pierce and Lou Weeks worked alongside each other for a combined total of almost half a century, but also played a key part in town centre initiatives.
Sue joined Dorothy Perkins when the shop opened in High Street in 1987 and was promoted to manager within 18 months, at the age of just 22.
In 1997, noticing a worrying rise in shoplifting at the store, she was the prime mover in setting up a Shopwatch scheme, at first relying on a ring-round telephone system to alert other traders if suspects were spotted, and later acquiring radios to make communication much more reliable.
From the four original members, the scheme has grown to 54 today, not only cutting the crime rate but bringing the town centre together through the regular contacts between members.
“It’s also been so valuable in helping to find lost children, or people with dementia, and when there has been a major emergency, such as the stabbing a few years ago at the Somerfield supermarket, it literally proved a life-saver by letting people know what was going on, instantly,” said Sue.
Lou was made manager of Evans in 2000 when the business opened within the same premises, having worked for Dorothy Perkins since 1991. She has been a key member of Littlehampton Traders’ Partnership, of which Shopwatch Radio is itself a part.
Sue has been made life president of the radio scheme and was given one of the original radios, with a plaque acknowledging her contribution, by members of the traders’ partnership, who also presented her and Lou with flowers.
Both women said they would most miss their customers and colleagues.
A total of 13 jobs have been lost as a result of the store’s parent company Arcadia not renewing its lease.