Harlequin Party Shop in Lewisham has announced its shop closure after being in business for 32 years. 

When business owner Karen Dawson, along with her husband Pete, shared the news on Facebook they received a torrent of support from loyal customers some of which have used the shop from its very beginning.

In a Facebook comment, Kris Cowap wrote: “I used to buy fart bombs there as a kid, it’s a piece of history and a massive shame it’s going!”

Since opening the business in 1991, Karen has been supplying fancy dress, party supplies and jokes to customers young and old.

Karen said: “It was scary at first “I used to work from home for myself and I also worked part time.

“When this business came up I went in with my former business partner Collin and took on the shop.

“It was a culture shock sitting in a shop by myself and it did take a while for business to pick up, but it did.”

In that time the shop became a staple for many customers who have purchased costumes for parties, World Book Day and marathons.

Karen began to have struggles during the pandemic after lockdown rules forced her shop to close.

Due to the specific niche of her business there wasn’t a huge demand for fancy dress at the time.

Karen added: “When Covid came along, everyone had to go onto the internet and we’re not online.

“People can order something, and it arrived the next day, prices are much lower, not always in good quality, but they are lower.

“It’s cheaper than what I can buy them for on the wholesalers and there’s no way I can compete with online retailers.”

The pandemic had a massive impact on Karen’s business, despite getting support from Lewisham Council.

However, Karen’s business took another setback as a result of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.

Karren said: “People don’t always need to buy party costumes, but especially not now it’s not a necessity.

“I remember being swamped on a weekend with blowing up the helium balloons, but now even that has really gone down.

“People aren’t really having as many parties now either because of the cost of everything and so a big part of my trade has disappeared.

“When shops start closing in local areas, the area gets run down and it has a knock-on effect.

“Communities are so important and small, independent shops are a big part of that.”

Over the years Karen began to notice a change in her customers, from opening the shop in the 90s and having a huge customer base of children and young people to now serving mostly adults.

Karen believes this change is a mark of just how much the lives of children and young people are now online and how heavily they rely on it for entertainment.

Karen said: “You don’t get as many kids in the shops now, they’re all online using their phones and so a huge portion of the customers I used to get back in the day have gone.”

Karen’s business has become an integral part of the Lewisham area and for Karen one of the reasons why is her customers.

Karren said: “I’ve got people who came here as kids now coming in with their kids.

All of my customers have been so kind over the years and now especially since I announced closing the shop.

“I love the people and it’s one of the best parts about doing this and I’m going to miss it so much.”

She has many fond memories about the shop and all who have visited over the years, which she will treasure.

One memory Karen remembers fondly came to light after the passing of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II when she saw her driving past her shop one day.

Karen said: “it was about 10 years ago now; I was standing outside my shop, and I remember seeing the Queen drive past in a car.

“I was amazed, my mouth just fell open and it was funny because at the time I had these rubber masks of the Queen and Prince Charles in the window, and I remembered wondering if she saw as she drove past!”

Since posting her closure on the shop Facebook page Karen has received many comments of customers sharing their fond memories of the shop and how, for many, it became a part of their life.

In a heartfelt comment, Brendan Lanigan wrote: “You've dressed up thousands over the years and made so many peoples dreams come true, the fun and laughter and the parties we've shared together will never ever be forgotten.”

The shop will remain open until December 31st, 2022, up until then Karen will continue to sell party supplies and fancy dress over the Christmas period.

Karen’s next plan is to find new employment, although her heart will always have a place for fancy dress.

Karen said: “I’d like to open a pop-up show around Halloween, I’ll always love fancy dress and Halloween was always our busiest time so that may be a way I can still do what I love.”

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