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THE decimation of our High Streets is like the closure of the shipyards, says a shopworkers’s union leader.

George Cain, North East Usdaw rep, was speaking as news emerged that a number of big retail names are in trouble.

Thorntons, Carpetright and TJ Hughes, which all have stores in Sunderland, unveiled plans to close shops as they battle to stay ahead of the economic downturn.

Mr Cain said: “It is absolutely horrible. I can’t believe I am having to go through it a second time. I went through it the first time with the closure of the shipyards.”

The loss of hundreds of retail jobs would be devastating for families who had already suffered with the closure of the North East’s traditional industries, he said.

Thorntons, which has stores in Sunderland’s Bridges shopping centre, Dalton Park, Washington Galleries, Chester-le-Street and two in Durham, announced plans to close up to 180 stores.

Discount department store TJ Hughes, which has a branch in the former Littlewoods store in Sunderland’s High Street West, gave official notice it intends to appoint an administrator.

It also emerged that Carpetright had recorded a 70 per cent slide in full-year profits and was to close more stores. The firm has branches in Castletown, Washington Peel Centre, Peterlee, and Durham City Retail Park.