SCORES of small businesses across the region – and over a thousand across the UK – will be left homeless from Friday after a shopping centre operator told them it was going into liquidation.

Liverpool-based In Shops, owned by Anglo-French market operator Geraud Markets, wrote to all tenants last Friday saying they had seven days to vacate their premises before liquidators were appointed.

The letter, from In Shops Centre Limited and In Shops Starters, says: “The companies have suffered from increasing losses and are now unable to generate sufficient cash to allow them to continue.

“We have been working with our professional advisors to try and find a workable solution with the landlords which would be in the interest of all parties.

“Unfortunately despite these discussions the directors have concluded that the business can no longer to continue to trade as a going concern and it is necessary to appoint liquidators to wind up the companies.

“This means that the companies will cease to trade and stop all operations.”

The letter adds that all creditors will meeting on Tuesday (January 21) to appoint liquidators.

Leaseholds will end by the close of trading on Friday and the units handed back to the landlords. It has 50 centres across the UK, with space for 1,800 businesses.

John Morris, 47, from Chester-le-Street, has run a mobile phone repair stall at the InShops on Middle Street in Consett, County Durham, for 13 years.

He said: “I am devastated. I have been here a long time. I am hoping to go to somewhere else but it will not be in Consett, maybe Chester-le-Street.

“It is out of the blue. It is a terrible start to the New Year.”

Tenants at the In Shops within Thornaby Pavilion shopping centre also received notice.

Massoud Qafouri, of Mass Vapour, said on a social networking site: “As of yet, we haven’t found a suitable replacement, but we will keep you posted. Thank you for all the support you’ve given so far.

“Please share this and help us to find a new shop.”

The In Shops at Coulby Newham closed down several years ago, and the shops in the Dundas Arcade in Middlesbrough are understood to have been taken over and run by the centre’s management.

A spokeswoman for Thornaby Pavilion shopping centre said last night that she was only aware of the liquidation and had been given no further information by In Shops.

The Northern Echo made repeated attempts to speak to management at In Shops but the company declined to comment.