Boost for High Street as American fashion house sets up shop in town

American owned, Anthropologie, is opening in the High Street tomorrow, in the former unit of home furnishing retailers, Cath Kidston

Employing eight full-time staff members, the store covers 3,000 sq ft over two floors in a building first built in the 17th century and remodelled in the 1920s.

Along with high end fashion items, Anthropologie will also sell jewellery, intimates, home furniture, décor items, as well as beauty products and gifts.

The company behind the store say Tunbridge Wells has been chosen as the first in a ‘focussed rollout’ of new premises across the UK, highlighting the confidence the fashion house has in the town’s retail fortunes.

It is good news for Tunbridge Wells High Street, which has lost a number of shops in recent months as retailers battle high business rates, rents, and a customer base all too eager to buy online.

Cath Kidston originally shut the doors on their High Street store in 2017 to move into Royal Victoria Place, but have since pulled out of the shopping centre.

In addition, as reported in the Times at the end of last year, French cheese and wine specialist, Fromage and French, closed its doors on the High Street just before Christmas citing high business rates as the cause.

Nationally, figures out last week show one in eight high street shops now sit empty.

Across Britain, 20,000 shops are boarded up, with the number of empty units rising dramatically over the last decade, going from 5.4 per cent in 2008 to 12.8 per cent last month, according to the research by estate agent Knight Frank and the Local Data Company.

Retail analysts blame competition from online stores such as Amazon and new delivery models such as Ocado, Boohoo and ASOS for the downturn.

Thankfully, the High Street in Tunbridge Wells is more prosperous than most, with far fewer empty shops compared to the top of town where places such as Ely Court remain empty.

The latest edition could also add a touch of glamour to the high street, as Anthropologie say their stores are unique in that they employ artists to create their window and store display, with many of their shops sporting elegant and decorative frontages.

It will be the eleventh UK branch of the fashion chain, which has more than 200 stores worldwide.

The company was founded in 1992 in Wayne, Pennsylvania and the name is a twist on owner’s Dick Hayne’s college major of anthropology.

Peter Ruis, Managing Director for Anthropologie International, said: “We are excited to be opening our eleventh store in the UK. Physical retail is the heart and soul of Anthropologie, and Tunbridge Wells will be the first opening of a focussed roll out across the UK.”

He added that the company will be hosting a number of events to celebrate the opening of the store, including a pop-up exhibition with British artist Sally Muir on April 13 and a Gin and Tonic Day on April 12.

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