HUNDREDS of children across Hampshire are set to receive an unwelcome Christmas present - the closure of Maraca Jacks.

The award-winning business has been providing music workshops and other activities for babies and toddlers or 25 years.

But Maraca Jacks is shutting with the loss of six jobs on December 14 after being hit by a decline in customers.

It comes just two years after the family-run enterprise was named Southampton Business of the Year.

Announcing the closure in a video owner Caroline Payne said: “Maraca Jacks has had the pleasure of entertaining and educating thousands of babies and toddlers for 25 years. We are extremely proud of the journey and story that has played out here in the local community, with family supporting our small business.

“Our unique and original music plan has remained, with additional songs added throughout the years as we continued to grow.

“There has been a noticeable decline in customers over the last year. We listened to your needs and implemented your requests such as pay-as-you-go, loyalty schemes, and new ways to pay including PayPal and credit/ debit cards. But we’ve come to the conclusion that the diversity of groups now available, compared to just a few years ago, is too great for Maraca Jacks.

“A big ‘thank you’ to my staff for delivering my ideas and sometimes crazy vision. They were chosen for their commitment and passion for working with children and I have great pride in calling each and every one of them my friends. And finally to you, our customers, who have been loyally attending and supporting us.”

Music workshops are held at a variety of locations across Hampshire including Romsey, Southampton and Eastleigh.

Maraca Jacks also stages parties for birthdays and other events. These will continue along with the after-school club which meets at Berrywood Primary School in Hedge End.

Caroline told the Daily Echo: “The current market and choice of groups available to parents is now quite large. We have found a downturn in the footfall of customers through the doors over the last two or three years, meaning we have struggled to keep some venues going.

“Parents return to work earlier and children can be funded for nursery school places so they are not coming along to weekly groups.

“We feel now is the right time to close. We’ve had thousands of children through our groups since 1994 and winning Southampton Business of the Year 2016 was our highlight.”