SMOKE-DAMAGED merchandise worth millions of pounds has had to be destroyed after the fire at the Crumbles shopping complex earlier this month.
And it is estimated the stores which have closed - Boots, Next, Matalan and Sports Direct - are forfeiting up to £100,000 each week in lost trade.
All the smoke, heat and water-damaged stock has been removed from the stores, which remain closed during the busiest shopping time of the year, while staff have been re-deployed to other stores.
It is now almost three weeks since the fierce blaze started at the back of the Boots store on the same night staff were having their Christmas party.
ASDA security guard Peter Slydell raised the alarm and within minutes fire engines were on the scene.
It took firefighters hours to control the blaze, which completely destroyed Boots - leaving the steel structure twisted. Re-building work has begun and is expected to take between six to eight months.
In the meantime, a Portacabin has opened in the car park at the front of the parade of shops dispensing prescriptions and selling a range of products.
Lindsay Rowan, manager of the store which employs 50 full and part-time staff, said the Portacabin would sell ‘everything you would find in a chemist’ and is open from 8am to midnight.
“We are providing a service for customers and that’s very important to us,” she said. “Building work is expected to take between six and eight months and we’ll remain here until then.”
r All the stock in Boots was damaged by the fire or smoke and has been taken away to be destroyed. Workmen are at the store ripping out the fixtures and fittings.
r At neighbouring Next, all the clothing, homeware and gifts have been removed and destroyed. Builders began a refit this week and the store is expected to re-open in January.
r The doors remain closed at Sports Direct and the Herald was unable to make contact with its head office.
r Matalan, which underwent a total refit in the last couple of years, has also been cleared of all its stock and on Tuesday lorries were still taking away smoke-damaged merchandise.
Mark Flenley, area manager for Matalan, said the store had suffered smoke damage and all stock was removed as a precautionary measure. The store will remain closed until at least mid January.
“Stock has been removed, the store is being assessed by loss adjustors and structural engineers. It will then cleaned from ceiling to floor by specialists,” said Mr Flenley. “The store will receive a full refit.”
Only ASDA and JJB Sports appear to have escaped the effects of the fire.
Adam Cook, store manager at JJB Sports, said on the Sunday morning after the fire that his staff worked tirelessly to remove smoke-damaged stock so they could open for business.
“There was a terrible smell of smoke but we left all the doors open to clear it and had to get rid of a small amount of smoke damaged clothing,” said Adam.
“Now it’s business as usual in the run up to Christmas.”
At ASDA, store manager Keith May was at his home in Bournemouth and on hearing about the fire, rushed back to Eastbourne. “We didn’t suffer any damage in the fire itself but there was a bit of a knock on effect in the days afterwards,” said Keith, who has been at the store for nine months. Now though, it’s business as usual and we are certainly busy at the moment.”