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A home shopping firm is closing its call centre in Newtown

Posted on Jan 28 2011
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A home shopping firm is closing its call centre in Newtown with the loss of 180 jobs, marking the end of an era for mail order in the Powys town.
 
Shop Direct is shutting its office in a building which once housed the world's first mail order business.
 
The company was started by Sir Pryce Pryce-Jones in the 19th Century, and his customers included Queen Victoria.
 
Last year Shop Direct said more people were choosing to shop online rather than place orders over the phone.
 
The company, and its predecessor Great Universal Stores, has been a major employer in Newtown for more than 35 years, but it is claimed there has been a continuous link with mail order since the mid-1800s.
 
Shop Direct's call centre is based at Pryce-Jones' Royal Welsh Warehouse, a tall, listed redbrick building built near Newtown railway station in 1879.
 
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Pryce Jones and his mail order business put Newtown on the world map, so it's a sad day”
 
David Pugh
Newtown historian
He started his career as a shop assistant, but soon after establishing his own business he became a multi-millionaire responsible for 4,000 workers and 250,000 customers, supplying Queen Victoria and other crowned heads of Europe.
 
Former Newtown mayor and town historian David Pugh said: "I suppose there's a sort of irony to it. When Pryce-Jones started he exploited the new technology of the day, steam trains, which he could not have done without.
 
"What's finishing this [Shop Direct in Newtown] is new technology because I understand people are shopping online instead of over the phone.
 
"Pryce-Jones and his mail order business put Newtown on the world map, so it's a sad day."
 
Shop Direct announced 1,500 job losses in January last year.
 
A site in Sunderland closed last April with the loss of 900 jobs, and in June, 390 workers were made redundant when a call centre in Burnley shut.  
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