One of the oldest toysellers in the country could disappear from the High Street after managers said they were in negotiations over selling the company.

Gamleys, founded in Hove in 1919, has already closed five of its 17 stores in the South East, including three in Sussex.

Between 30 and 40 full and part-time workers have lost their jobs.

The decision to shut the Hove, Littlehampton, and Hastings stores was taken because of changes in the toy-selling market, the company said.

Charles Bradford, managing director of Gamleys, blamed increasing competition from bigger retailers, the increase in the number of people shopping on the internet and the waning popularity of traditional toys in favour of computer games.

He said the shops closed were "not contributing sufficiently to the business".

When asked by The Argus if Gamleys was planning further closures, Mr Bradford said he could not comment further because the management board was in talks with "an interested party" over selling the company.

He added: "We are currently in negotiations with an interested party for the business and I can't risk giving you any further information as it is a sensitive time for us and it might prejudice those negotiations."

Mr Bradford would not name the interested party.

Tony Mernagh, executive director of the Brighton and Hove Economic Partnership, said he was not surprised to hear of the shops had shut.

He said: "Gamleys has struggled for a number of years to so modernise and face up to the challenges of retail in the 21st century.

"I think we are seeing the start of a shake-out of retailers in the UK because of the difficult trading conditions."

Gavin Stewart, Hove town centre manager, said he was saddened to hear about the closure of the shop in Western Road, Hove.

But he added: "The economic situation in Brighton and Hove compares well to other parts of the country. Our vacancy rates are lower percentage-wise that they are across the UK.

"We are generally very positive about bringing new business into the city."

John Stevens, chairman of the Littlehampton Traders Partnership, was upset to lose a well-loved brand name that had been in the town since 1935.

He said: "It is obviously very disappointing as Gamleys is a long established company in the town.

"We are living through difficult commercial times at the moment and I'm not going to say it will be easy but there is no reason to think that a unit as good as that will not be taken up.

"When anyone loses their jobs there is some anxiety and they might not be able to find employment immediately because of the downturn in parts of the economy.

"But the supermarket chain Lidl has said it want to open a new store which would create about 40 new jobs so there is light at the end of the tunnel.

"Littlehampton is still an up and coming area."