HEXHAM’S struggling high street could be dealt another blow as a business which was established 40 years ago looks set to close its doors.

Just a week after the boss at department store Beales announced it would close in the autumn, with the loss of 71 jobs, the owner of Greggs Sports on Battle Hill said he too would be forced to shut up shop in September if a buyer could not be found.

The closure would add to the high volume of empty shops in the town, with at least 30 commercial premises presently vacant on Hexham’s main shopping streets.

Ian Millar took over Greggs Sports in 2010 from the Hudspith brothers, who ran it for three decades, but he has said he has no plans to renew the lease on the building when it expires in September.

He said online shopping had affected high streets across the country, with Hexham feeling the full force of it.

“We have young people work here and I ask where they shop, and it is all online,” he said.

“I don’t even know if there will be a high street in 10 to 15 years. Young people don’t want their shops to close but they aren’t prepared to shop there.”

There are concerns about the alarming rate of shops leaving Hexham with the loss of Beales – due to close on September 21 – a hammer blow to the high street.

However, chief executive Tony Brown has insisted it will return to the town when it purchases 27,000 sq ft of the existing site from landlord Buccleuch Estates as part of a redevelopment.

While Mr Brown blamed high business rates for the demise of Beales, Mr Millar said running a sports store in Hexham was still a viable business.

He said: “Our rates aren’t bad, our rent is ok and our landlord is great. I just can’t devote the amount of time that a business like this deserves. I own the Bowes Hotel in Bardon Mill and all my time and money is being invested there, and Greggs needs somebody who can come in and dedicate all their effort to it. But it is definitely a viable business for somebody who is willing to do that.

“I would love it to stay open and I am willing to help anybody who wants to buy it, whether financially or by providing help to run the business until they are comfortable to do it themselves.”

Following the announcement that Beales will close, Northumberland County Council has said it will try to help the store.

Paul Johnston, the council’s interim executive director of place, said: “This is disappointing news, particularly for the staff who work in the store, which has been a big employer for many years. We’ve worked hard to support Beales over recent years and will continue to work with the owners during the coming months as they endeavour to find a positive solution.”

Amidst the doom and gloom, Rachel Anderson, assistant director of policy at North East England Chamber of Commerce, said there were reasons for towns like Hexham to be optimistic.

“Whilst we are seeing a shift away from traditional retail because of the threats from online sales, property rentals and business rates, there is hope for high streets,” she said. “There are a lot of good ideas in Hexham but it needs local authority assistance, and leaving premises empty isn’t the best approach.”