CUSTOMERS of the Albemarle & Bond pawnbrokers are being kept in the dark about store closures, according to the National Pawnbrokers Association (NPA).

The Warrington branch, based on the corner of Sankey Street and Bold Street, shut last week and nobody is answering the phone.

Customers contacting the Warrington Guardian say they were worried about their goods.

A statement posted on the pawnbroker's website said that 'this store has ceased trading' and they could not be reached.

The company has not confirmed how many stores will shut.

The NPA said that Speedloan Finance, which owns the high street brands, has 'closed a number of stores' and taken the decision to downscale.

"Their decision to downscale UK operations is a strategic matter for the company but the NPA has expressed its concern that the communication of their actions to their customers falls below the standards expected of its members," a statement said.

"In particular we are most unhappy with the fact that customers cannot get through to the helpline," it added.

The association said it had demanded the management of the company resolve the issue as "a matter of urgency".

The statement on the company's website said that they were 'unable to contact all customers prior to the closure date'.

All items would be transferred from the affected shops to the company's pawnbroking centre for the duration of the loan.

The statement said: "Your pledged item(s) will be held securely in our Pawnbroking Centre for the duration of the loan.

"If your items are expired or due to expired, please note we will not take any action with your items until we speak to you. If you do not redeem your loan on the agreed date your pledged item(s) may be sold in accordance with your Pawnbroking agreement. If your item is sold for a surplus, we will write to inform you how you can receive these funds.

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"We apologise for any inconvenience that may be caused by the store closure, if you have any queries, please contact our customer service team. on 01865 798114."

Customers of Albemarle & Bond and sister company Herbert Brown pawn their belongings in exchange for short-term cash.