A MAJOR retailer is leaving a town centre and moving six miles to a nearby village.

Next, in Montague Street, Worthing, closes today [Thursday] with the firm moving to an expanded store that opens next week in Rustington.

All 23 Worthing staff were offered to relocate to the new store, with an extra 15 employees joining the team.

Concerns have been raised about access to the new store, which is serviced by an infrequent bus service.

Despite the loss, town centre manager Sharon Clarke said Worthing was still holding up well, with one of the lowest empty shop rates in the region at below five per cent.

The Rustington store is three times the size of the Worthing outlet and includes a Costa Coffee.

It will open between 9am and 8pm on weekdays, 9am to 7pm on Saturdays and 11am to 5pm on Sundays.

The Worthing retail unit, which had been used by Next for 20 years, is available for £70,000 per annum.

Mrs Clarke said: “At the moment, Next’s biggest growth is in the home side of things.

“With low mortgage rates, people are buying houses and people are moving so home departments are seeing big growth.

“Unfortunately, we lost Next because there was nothing suitable to expand into, there just wasn’t a site big enough to accommodate the home department.

“A site became available in Rustington where they were able to build to their own specifications.

“Next were looking to expand before the BHS store became available and they had committed to Rustington when BHS collapsed.

“I haven’t been made aware of anyone moving into the Next store but we do know the local commercial agents are getting a lot of interest in the town, which is good.

“There are some concerns with the food industry, which has seen the biggest growth, which is facing a perfect storm of rising business rates and rising food costs because of Brexit.”

A Next spokesman said: “This store will include all the latest styles from Next’s newest collections for women’s, men’s, children’s, home and Costa Coffee.”

On Worthing Directory Facebook page, one resident welcomed the move saying the current shop was “tiny” and the selection poor but another said it was “no good” to them as they could not drive.