IT'S been a city centre shopping landmark for more than 75 years - but now Southampton's British Home Stores' outlet is set to close.

More than 60 jobs are at risk after the company announced consultation has begun on shutting down its Above Bar Street shop.

Hampshire Chamber of Commerce chief Stewart Dunn admitted the announcement was a shock and said it underlines the difficulty faced by high-street shops competing against online sales.

The blow comes only days after the Daily Echo revealed a £400 million development could transform the city's derelict waterfront and create up to 10,000 jobs.

Archives show that the store dates back to at least 1939 and Mr Dunn believes it was one of the first reopened after the city was bombed in the Second World War.

It is understood the 37,000 square foot shop employs 65 people and that attempts are being made to provide current staff with roles in other stores.

Mr Dunn said: "The proposed closure strikes hard at the very heart of the city and comes as shock to those who regard it as something of an institution that they have grown up with, along with Marks and Spencer and others.

"It underlines the changes and in retailing and pressures that shops are under to compete with shops online.

"That building was one of the first put up after World War Two and after the high street was blitzed. I believe they were the original occupiers.

"It’s ironic that it’s opposite WestQuay in a prime position - our thoughts are with all staff and we wish them all the very best in finding new positions."

In 1967 the store expanded to give it more than 600 extra feet of counter space and it absorbed Smarts furniture shop, which was based next door.

And in 1982 its chairman Sir Maurice Hodgson told the Daily Echo he believed there was a need to create a "more attractive and exciting environment" for shoppers, with his plans including changed carpet colours and reduced overhead lighting.

But only four years later the decision was made to scrap its food hall section and another design was unveiled.

And now BHS has announced the shop is set to close "early next year" after consultation has finished.

Southampton Itchen MP Royston Smith echoed Mr Dunn's concern and said he had fond memories of the shop from his own upbringing.

He said: "It is very sad to see the closure of this iconic Southampton store, reminiscent of the demise of Woolworths.

"Many of us will remember this store from our childhood. I hope that the staff who currently work there will find equally rewarding work in the locality or take up British Homes Store's offer of employment in an alternative store.

"I am sure the owners of the property will be looking for a replacement tenant to avoid the blight of an empty unit on our High Street."

As previously reported by the Daily Echo, plans have been submitted to reinvigorate the city's Royal Pier site by building bars, restaurants, homes, and a super casino.

But Mr Dunn said the BHS closure highlights the changing face of retail and the need for a business retail district in the city, which will hold its inaugural meeting in the coming weeks.

He said: "The chamber urges all stakeholders, authorities, landlords and retailers to discuss future plans, priorities and explore solutions to retailers at the centre of Southampton."

A BHS spokesperson said: ""We are consulting with colleagues about the proposed closure of our store in Southampton early next year and are doing all we can to try to find our colleagues new roles in other stores.

"We would like to take this opportunity to thank our loyal customers and colleagues in Southampton for their support over the years, and hope to return to the city one day."