WilkoÂ has already delivered a valuable boost to the local economy by creating 60 jobs at its new Tunbridge Wells outlet, just a few days after British Home Stores shut up shop for the last time.
The nationwide company opened its doors in Royal Victoria Place for the first time this morning [Wednesday].
The large chain offers a range of products covering homeware and furniture, garden and outdoor goods, DIY and decorating.
Until now the nearest Wilko, previously called Wilkinsons, was 18 miles away in Maidstone or 20 miles away in Crawley.
It was opened by Mayor David Neve, and the first 50 customers through the door received a Wilko Food Mixer, while the next 50 were given a £5 Wilko gift card and a complementary bag of items.
The latest unemployment figures for Tunbridge Wells show a 14 per cent rise on last year – and 29 per cent among those between 18 and 24 years old.
In contrast, Tonbridge has seen a three per cent reduction in unemployment, with ten per cent fewer young people out of work.
The Tunbridge Wells figures have been affected by almost 400 redundancies made by Turners Fine Foods in Goudhurst.
Andrew Holmes, Integrated Partnership Manager at Maidstone Jobcentre, said: “The closure of Turners has resulted in a number of ex-employees claiming benefits but the Jobcentre has been able to deploy extra resources to ensure that nobody has to wait any longer than usual to make their claim for benefit.”
He added that many of the company’s former staff had been snapped up by other employers.
“All those affected are being offered the full range of Jobcentre support and some have already moved back into work,” he said.
“A few of them have been getting jobs within one day. Local employers are asking about them because they are regarded as highly-motivated workers.”
With the demise of BHS in Royal Victoria Place – which closed its doors for the final time on Saturday – the number of people claiming Jobseekers’ Allowance or Universal Credit is set to rise.
However, the arrival of The Range on the old Morrisons site on Vale Road will offer further employment opportunities. It is understood that the garden and leisure store will bring 80 jobs to the town.
It is hoped that another big chain, such as Primark, will move into the premises vacated by BHS.
Mr Holmes insisted: “Despite the small rise in those claiming benefits in Tunbridge Wells compared to this time last year, the labour market continues to be buoyant.
“The Jobcentre has recently worked with Wilko on the recruitment for their new store, and 16 Jobcentre claimants have secured positions with them.
“We are also working with The Range and we will be the only route for recruitment for all the vacancies for their new store.”