TOMMY Ball's shoe store has stopped trading after going into administration.

The famous Blackburn brand is now in the hands of administrators and all staff have been made redundant.

Stunned workers were told the news this afternoon by administrator Charles Brook.

The closure comes two months after the store's founder, rags-to-riches shoe magnate Tommy Ball, died aged 83.

Mr Ball had sold the business in 1986 and retired to the Isle of Mann.

Mr Brook, of Skelmersdale-based administrators Cresswall Associates, said: "I have been appointed administrator of Tommy Ball's (Supplies) Ltd.

"It has not been able to pay its debts and that's why we are here. I cannot reveal how much the debts are.

"As of today's date all staff have been made redundant and the premises will be closed this evening.

"People are very upset. There are people who have worked there for a large part of their lives."

He said it was too early to say whether the company would be sold as a going concern.

Mr Brook added: "No further decisions have been taken at this stage.

"These things are never simple so it's difficult to say when we will know more.

"It's clearly big news. Tommy Ball's is a big name and a lot of people are very concerned about what's going to happen."

About 20 staff were employed at the store in Hart Street.

The news has been met with shock from traders and politicians.

Blackburn chamber of trade president David Cottam said: "It is very sad news. Tommy Ball's is part and parcel of Blackburn.

"For a long-established business like that in Blackburn to go into administration is a sign of the times."

In November the store was threatened with a winding-up order by a supplier who claimed it had not been paid, Waterfoot-based L J & R Footwear Ltd.

At the time owner Maralyn Rigby said the matter had been resolved.

It is unclear whether this is linked to Tommy Ball's going into administration.

Blackburn businesswoman Margo Grimshaw said: "It's bad news. I am really disappointed.

"The trouble is that today, there is so much competition with shops in town and people want things served up on a plate without making any effort.

"It's a sad day for Blackburn and it feels like the end of an era with Tommy going and now the shop.

"I'm just glad it didn't go before Tommy. He died with the dream still alive."

Blackburn with Darwen council deputy leader Michael Lee said the council had to offer help to the workers that had been laid off.

He added: "We don't want to be losing retail like that in the town."

Rachel McLean was one of the last customers to buy shoes at Tommy Ball's before it closed last night.

The 27-year-old, of Oswaldtwistle, said: "It's a bit of a shock. I had no idea it was closing.

"It's always been a big name in the town and a good place to get bargains."

Pauline Hunter, who has been shopping at the store for over 20 years, was the penultimate customer and left the shop minutes after it stopped letting customers in at 4.30pm.

Ms Hunter, from Blackburn, bought a pair of school shoes for her grandson Dion Bembridge, six.

She said: "It is a sad day.

"I am shocked.

"It is sad because this is a landmark in East Lancashire."

A customer who turned up after the doors had been locked and would only give her name as Fiona added: "It is a piece of local history and I am shocked to hear it is closing.

"It will me missed and it is very sad particularly now they were doing the more modern styles."

Ms Rigby was unavailable for comment.