Out of Africa
11th September 2019
Interior lovers are sure to be familiar with the beautiful Biggie Best shop on Mount Pleasant in Tunbridge Wells. Eileen Leahy finds out the fascinating story behind the brand from creative director Elena Lavrova
Biggie Best was founded in Cape Town, South Africa by Pru Pfuhl in 1987. Since then it has grown to become South Africa’s largest independent home decor retailer, offering a product range ‘synonymous with good taste and value’ according to its creative director Elena Lavrova.
The company opened a distribution centre in the UK in 1995 in order to supply a growing franchise operation in Italy and France before opening its own stores in the UK in 2014. Biggie Best now has 10 stores around the country, including the one in Tunbridge Wells, which is located on Mount Pleasant.
Despite seeing a huge downturn in retail in that area it is still going strong thanks mainly to its loyal customers, friendly and helpful staff and of course its wealth of gorgeous and highly covetable homewares. Whether you want to stock up on hand-milled British soaps, buy a grand château chic style mirror, prettify your dinner table with some glistening glassware and exotic crockery or buy a new buttonback statement chair you will find it all in this enticing two-floor shop, which sources most of its goods from far flung places including India, Vietnam, Morocco, South Africa and China.
‘Biggie Best offers both timeless interior items and trend-proof products that can fit into multiple décor schemes’
Elena, who works alongside Biggie Best’s CEO Mark Pfuhl, Pru’s son, is involved in all areas of the business including the brand’s shop locations. So why did they chose Tunbridge Wells? “It’s full of tastefully restored courtyards, alleyways and lovely old streets with a number of successful independent shops so we thought Biggie Best would fit in nicely – and we were right! It’s one of our best-performing shops,” says Elena. “And it’s in close proximity to London, which makes it even more attractive for day-trippers and our own logistics.”
And what kind of feedback do they get from the people of Tunbridge Wells? “It’s very positive. I think people in Tunbridge Wells welcome independence and can see that we offer something different but also great value and quality. Over the years we’ve managed to build strong and trustworthy relationships with our suppliers around the world so we are lucky to be able to offer a fair price for a high-quality product to our customers.”
As any resident of Tunbridge Wells will know our retail scene is not particularly bustling at present, so what does Elena believe the secret of their success to be? “The high street is ‘the heart of the community’ and I still think that people like to come down to a store to escape their daily routine and rummage through beautiful pieces of homeware and clothing. Having said that, I also think that online shopping is here to stay, which is why we at Biggie Best are actively working on developing our online platform too.”
Why Biggie's Best
What made you choose the name Biggie Best?
Biggie was the name of a much loved family cat. Kids always kept saying that Biggie is the best. That’s how the name came about.
Can you tell us three instant interior styling tricks to improve the look and feel of your home?
Mix-and-match natural materials and weave in lots of photo frames and candles. These are an essential element of an elegant home.
What current trends are selling best for you?
The majority of our customers love an effortlessly chic way to decorate their homes. I don’t believe in getting sucked into redecorating completely around trends. Be true to your own style! At Biggie Best we offer both timeless interior items and trend-proof products that can fit into multiple décor schemes.
What do you enjoy most about trading in Tunbridge Wells?
Because we get a great response from locals and, of course, love the beautiful town itself. We often use visiting it as an excuse to spend a weekend away from home!
Paula Mitchell is one of Biggie Best’s biggest fans and also happens to work there part-time alongside a team of four others. Here she gives us a little bit of background on the character of the Tunbridge Wells store...
“We have a number of looks in store. Obviously we have the classic palates of greys and whites, which our customers love as it’s Biggie Best’s signature style, but also in the mix are other trends such as our ‘jungle’ and ‘colonial’ themes where we’ll style up corners with deeper tones like a hit of green and richer metallics to present something just a little bit different.
We also like to include little pops of colour courtesy of our glasses or cushions in order to prettify up the grey elements. We try and group areas in themes just to show people what they can do. Ironically a lot of customers come here to buy the shabby chic French look to bring it to their house in France as they can’t find it there!
Our window is very much our calling card and if we put something in it, that item will sell very quickly. We’re also trying to offer a point of difference by helping our customers with online orders in that they can come into the store and see the pieces here and we’ll help order them. We can also sign them up so they can benefit from lots of the website’s offers so I guess it’s a bit more of a personal shopping experience that combines the shop one too.”
Biggie Best, 8 Mount Pleasant Rd, Tunbridge Wells TN1 1RB