Online shopping forces historic jewellers to close

Nus Ghani

One of the oldest luxury stores in Tunbridge Wells High Street is closing its doors for good after becoming a victim of the growth in online shopping.

Jewellers Payne and Son Ltd originally started as Payne & Son (Silversmiths) in Kent in 1790 and then opened an outlet in the town 146 years ago.

The jeweller’s reputation saw the business given the honour of making the Tunbridge Wells’ mayoral chain.

But current owner Mr Francis Starkie decided the business is now unsustainable after a very poor Christmas and concluded he had no choice but to close the historic store.

Deep regret

Sales consultant Jo Wicker said: “Footfall and spend were 25 per cent lower than last year for us. It has been caused by internet sales, lowering of Christmas spend per person, Royal Victoria Place having shops and car park under one roof, and people spending more on luxury food and drink instead of gifts.”

She sent an email to customers stating: “It is with deep regret that I and my colleagues, Denise M. Haigh and Gill Lambert, have to inform you that, due to ongoing economic difficulties and a poor Christmas trading period, we have been left with no other option than to close the business.

“We anticipate this happening mid-end April 2016, once we have disposed of as much stock as possible.

“As one of our valued customers we want to thank you most sincerely for your continuous and valuable support over the past years, it has been much appreciated.”

Payne and Sons, famous for its maroon frontage and huge clock overlooking the High Street on the outside wall of number 37, has had a high-class clientele in the past, with ‘many lords and ladies’ through its doors. They are known for selling clocks and watches, diamonds, vintage and contemporary jewellery and silverware, and they have a collection of world famous porcelain sculptures.

The shop has also starred in a number of advertisements over the years, the most famous being one for BT’s Talking Pages, when comedian John Cleese pops his head round the door and says: “Got any antique diamond rings?”

The current Mr Payne, Michael Payne, is the seventh generation of the family to still be linked to the business since it first began. He still owns the building, but only has a limited involvement in the shop today.

Breeds the Cutlers, formerly Steadman’s, was the oldest shop in Tunbridge Wells when it closed down in the High Street in 2012.

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