TAUNTON’S shopping offer received a major blow this week after it emerged clothes retailer Next is pulling out of the town.

Bosses blame falling sales resulting in its Fore Street store being unable to make a profit.

Staff have been informed that the shop will close next May when the lease is up.

Where possible they will be offered jobs in nearby stores - the closest are in Bridgwater and Street.

The company does not currently plan to open up in other premises in Taunton, although it has not ruled out returning to an out-of-town site.

The move will bring to an end Next’s two decades in Taunton A Next spokesman said: “After 20 years of trading in Taunton, we will cease trading in May 2020, when the lease comes to an end.

“The is one of the smaller stores in the company’s portfolio and unfortunately we cannot warrant the store being in the town due to falling sales.

“We have consulted with the staff in-store and hope that where possible we will be able to relocate them to a store close by.

“Despite our disappointment that we are no longer able to trade profitably at our store in Taunton town centre, we do hope to return to Taunton in an out-of-town retail park subject to the right opportunity and favourable planning decisions.”

Taunton Chamber of Trade president Nigel Pearce said the bombshell is “sad for the town, Next’s customers and employees”.

He added: “The Taunton Chamber is working hard together with the BID steering group to promote Taunton as a high quality destination, and its a shame that Next will not be part of what we hope will be a positive future.

“I am sure that all will agree that they will always be welcome to return if/when the situation changes.”

A Somerset West and Taunton spokeswoman said retail parks are subject to legal agreements setting out what type of goods can be sold there.

She added: “Any retailer wishing to sell goods which are not permitted by the legal agreement would need to apply to SWT to vary that planning legal agreement in order to operate.”

Next had previously been interested in taking space on the proposed Firepool development, which has been vacant for ten years. But it announced in May last year that it was “no longer interested” in the site.