TWO more shops in Bridport town centre have closed, victims of increasing overheads and competition.

Clinton Cards in East Street and independently-owned GS Footwear in West Street have both shut their doors.

Rent hikes and ‘ridiculously high’ rates have been blamed as the recession-hit bites the high street.

Garry Cooper, owner of GS Footwear, is transferring his business to the internet to escape rising costs. Talks to move to a smaller shop elsewhere in Bridport, where overheads would have been reduced, failed.

He said: “We’re leaving because of the increasing rents and the ridiculously high rates.

“We were due a rent review and I simply can’t afford to pay what the landlords want. It would be financial suicide if I agreed to it.

“I suppose from their point of view they are being hit by low interest rates, so they’ve still got to get their money in.

“But the rates are a big killer. They are a stupid amount of money for what is here.

“The rates have gone up by inflation but turnover and profit has also dropped.”

Mr Cooper said he could no longer compete with the chain stores.

There are hopes that new businesses will open in the Clinton and GS Footwear shops, although new tenants have not yet been confirmed.

Clinton Cards said the high rent was a factor in the closure of its Bridport branch. A spokesman said: “The closure of the Bridport store is part of Clintons’ continual store review to ensure that all stores are delivering as much value as possible. Unfortunately the Bridport store was not performing as well as hoped and we took the difficult decision to close it.

“Whilst rent was a factor it was not the sole reason.”

Town and county councillor Coun Karl Wallace called for free parking on Saturdays to help draw shoppers into town.

“In this economic downturn we do need to be supporting people.”

Bridport Chamber of Commerce president Mike Harvey said it is clear high street rents and rates need to come down to help struggling businesses.

He said: “They can probably do with some decent valuations because landlords are becoming more amenable to reducing the rent. It’s quite clear there needs to be an adjustment in rent in the high street.”

Mr Harvey said Bridport is surviving ‘reasonably’ well compared to some other towns, but it is little comfort to failing businesses.

“It still doesn’t mean the shopkeepers are thriving, they are still struggling,” he said.

THE Go Mobile store in West Street has also been closed, but is expected to re-open in the New Year.

A spokesman for Shebang, Go Mobile’s parent company, said: “Our store in Bridport is only temporarily closed. Our retail model in 2011 changed from managed stores to a franchise model.

“We are awaiting the new franchisee to take it over, which should be early in the New Year.”

The Generations café in East Street is also temporarily closed. Agents Chesterton Humberts said that the business and lease was up for sale at £25,000.