A DOUBLE hammer blow hit Bridgwater this week, when two long-standing businesses announced that they are pulling out of the town.

Clothing chain QS announced that its High Street outlet was shutting - costing 20 people their jobs - and the Mercury understands that 50 manual labour positions are going from the Bath Road Abattoir, where a workload slump is forcing Bridgwater Meat to close its slaughterhouse.

The news comes hot on the heels of the departure of military vehicle firm Natocars, which has ceased trading from its Wylds Road base after 35 years in the town.

The owners of QS, who went into administration earlier this month, said 143 stores nationwide were to be closed as part of a cost-cutting mission to save the troubled business.

Malcolm Shierson, QS administrator said: "It is regrettable that stores have to be closed and their staff made redundant but these actions are necessary to provide long term prospects for the group.

"By disposing of the non profitable stores we believe we will be able to protect the livelihoods of the remaining 2,537 store based staff by creating a sustainable and profitable operation."

Bosses assessed the commercial viability of each store based on a number of factors including its size, location and profitability - and decided that Bridgwater was a "non-core" outlet.

Woolworths, known to be actively seeking new premises outside Eastover, is likely to emerge as a prime candidates to fill the empty unit in the town centre.

Natocars, which began as a small garage in Moorlynch, sold cars to the armed forces to drive around the world. From humble beginnings, the business quickly grew to having bases in scores of countries worldwide.

But staffing numbers have dropped in recent years and the company employed only a handful of staff towards the end of its life.

The Bath Road Abattoir has operated near the cattle market for more than 30 years and has stood in the way of development through the Bristol Road playing fields.

Closure of the business could work in the council's favour. The authority reportedly wants to form extra market access through the slaughterhouse, and build homes nearby.

Bridgwater MP Ian Liddell-Grainger said this week's bad news means it is time for the whole town to pull together.

"Any job loss is a disaster and we may have more to come with the Royal Ordinance factory," he said.

"This is a problem that is now on all of us and we have to encourage people to set up their businesses in Bridgwater. We are open for business - that is the message."

BRIDGWATER also had a good piece of news this week - The Mercury can exclusively reveal a top-name brand is opening an outlet in the town in a matter of months. See inside for full details.