Peter Percy shuts up shop after over 50 years in Hemel Hempstead

Justin Hamper, Peter Percy Hamper, Jeannette Goodway and Ivor Simmonds outside the store in 2011
Justin Hamper, Peter Percy Hamper, Jeannette Goodway and Ivor Simmonds outside the store in 2011

A shop will be closing its doors after more than 50 years as a staple store on Marlowes.

Peter Percy Menswear opened on December 1, 1960, to offer bespoke suits to the residents of what was back then a burgeoning New Town.

Opened by skilled cutter Peter Percy Hamper, thousands of suits have been made there since – and just six years ago it celebrated its 50th anniversary.

But sadly the workload has become too much for manager Justin Hamper – son of Peter – who has decided he will not be renewing the lease on the building when it ends on March 15.

Justin told the Gazette: “It’s sad, but we are coming towards the end of the lease and we’re not prepared to extend it.

“It’s not down to the cost of the business, but the hours I need to do are not viable or realistic.

“We had been trying to sell the business without much luck, so that left us where we are with things now.

“It’s unfortunate, but we’re not prepared to commit to a lengthy time on the lease, so sadly it was also inevitable.”

Regarded as Hemel Hempstead’s ‘original designer store’, Peter cut made-to-measure suits and did fittings and adjustments within the store premises.

But with changing times came uncertainty and the need to adapt.

When ‘ready to wear’ garments started to become more mainstream, it threatened the vitality of many independent clothes retailers.

And Peter was once told by another store manager that he’d be ‘out of business in six months’.

Thankfully the demand for the store’s skilled craftsmen and women didn’t waiver, and they could even call on the support of residents from neighbouring counties such as Bedfordshire, and even North London.

But 2017 is now the year that history comes to an end, and it will be an emotional last few weeks for Justin and his colleagues at the store.

He said: “The lease ends on March 15 but we’re still in discussions as to when we will close. We have let customers know and they are all really disappointed.

“There’s less and less independent stores, and that harms the character of the town – it becomes less people-orientated.

“It’s such a shame because it’s being going for so long. It’s a special shop and it’s the end of an era.”