A LONG established dry cleaning business is set for closure, meaning 63 jobs will be lost, unless a suitable buyer can be found.

Solent Cleaners has announced that it is soon to close its 10 stores throughout Hampshire, Surrey and West Sussex, including a branch in Romsey.

The business has been successful since being formed in 1987 but has has recently suffered financial difficulties as a result of the long term decline in the consumer requirement for dry cleaning of wool fibre and structured garments such as suits, as man-made washable clothes become more popular.

Director Paul Durham said: "Increased employee costs, rents, rates, and spiralling energy costs have reduced profit margins on a declining turnover. We have tried to find alternative revenue streams, such as laundry and ironing services, and reduced overheads where possible but it has not been enough. We have supported the company through personal funds but do not have the resources to continue."

The family owned company employs 63 staff across its branches, who will all face unemployment if a buyer is not found.

Paul, who is the grandchild of the founder of Solent Cleaners, added: "In conjunction with our agents we are actively seeking interested parties to take over some or all of the outlets and we have already received a considerable amount of interest over the last few days. We are hoping that something can be salvaged although regrettably it is highly likely that the company will go into liquidation and we have informed our staff accordingly. We are devastated for the staff, a number of whom have been with us for over 30 years, and would like to thank them for their support at this extremely difficult time."

The company has informed customers that it was no longer taking in new work and a plan has been implemented to contact customers to arrange for them to collect clothing items which have been cleaned and are sat in stores awaiting collection - with customers urged to collect them as soon as possible.

Whiteley based insolvency experts Portland Business Recovery are assisting the directors regarding the liquidation of the company.