POUNDSTRETCHER is the latest national retailer to close in Taunton.

A number of businesses have decided to shut up shop following a double struggle against increased online sales and the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

But it is not all doom and gloom, with some independents opening in the county town.

Poundstretcher cleared its store in Bridge Street after closing on Saturday - just three years after the premises underwent a £100,000 refit.

The company has recently reported falling profits and the situation has worsened since the coronavirus crisis.

It announced in June it could be shutting around 250 stores as it attempted to negotiate rent reductions. Its sister shop Bargain Buys remains open in North Street.

Over the years, the building, which many view as out of character with the location, has been eyed up by the council as a potential mixed development site.

Laura Ashley is another big name store leaving Taunton this week.

It has been running a closing down sale at its outlet in Belvedere Retail Park, off Station Road, for some time.

Customers have been snapping up heavily discounted bargains, with up to 70 per cent off - and "at least" 80 per cent of luggage items.

It is next door to a vacant property, home to Bathstore until its pulled out of the town last year.

Laura Ashley has been struggling for some time and administrators were called in earlier this year.

Other national firms quitting Taunton include Zizzi, which decided not to re-open its restaurant opposite St Mary Magdalene Church.

Next has also disappeared from the high street, although the decision to go had already been made months ago.

Another fashion retailer, Monsoon Accessorize, announced in June the expected closure of its outlets in Fore Street.

On a positive note, Cordant Recruitment has opened offices in St James Street and Excalibur Gaming has moved into premises in Bridge Street.

And two restaurants have moved into buildings in Station Road - Italian eatery Venezia and Indian cuisine Turmeric Kitchen@65.

Nigel Pearce, president of Taunton Chamber of Commerce, said: "It is a very mixed picture at the moment, with some bigger nationals who you may have thought would be more resilient closing, and other smaller independents taking the opportunity to open.

"It's encouraging that there is still enough optimism for people to invest in new businesses, but it is always sad when businesses close and people lose their jobs, particularly at this time when alternative employment can't be taken for granted.

"What we are seeing probably reflects the current trend for change and is a sign of how high streets will continue to evolve."