TRADERS in north Durham are facing unemployment after a shopping centre operator announced it was going into liquidation.

InShops on Middle Street in Consett is closing on Friday, six days after informing people who work there they have to remove their stock and assets from the site.

The news has sent shockwaves through the business community and will leave more than 20 people out of work.

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There are more than a dozen stalls, shops and a cafe on the site which is well used by town centre shoppers and has many regular customers.

Mother-of-two Valerie Hawdon, 55, from Leadgate, who has run The Luggage Company for seven years, said: “I think it is a disgrace. It is going to kill Consett.

“We have had no time to prepare for it. That is what is so disgusting about it.”

Helen Turner, from Chester-le-Street, set up her second hand furniture, toy and household goods store following the closure of her husband’s recycling business less than a year ago.

She said: “It is a case of wondering where the stock is going to go.

“We found out on Saturday and have to be out this week. We have got three children and a mortgage to pay, credit cards and general household bills.”

Ashaq Hussain, 62, who sells clothing and bedding, said: “I am very sad about it.

“This is my bread and butter.”

John Surtees, from Consett, who repairs watches and sells jewellery, said the closure of InShops would have a negative impact on the town centre’s economy.

He said: “It is right in the town centre. It is one of the few things that is left that people come in for.

"There is not a lot left. There is a nice little community here. It will be terrible. It will be like the death of the community. It is a real shame.”

Liverpool-based InShops, owned by Anglo-French market operator Geraud Markets, told traders by letter the company had suffered from increasing losses and was unable to generate sufficient cash to allow it to continue.

No-one from the company was available for comment when contacted by The Northern Echo.