Saturday, 25 September 2021

Jewellers closes as owner says town is ‘marginalised’

A HENLEY jewellers is to close after 10 years.

A HENLEY jewellers is to close after 10 years.

Tom Bulgarelli, the owner of Precious Love in Duke Street, claims the town is being “marginalised” as a shopping destination.

Mr Bulgarelli, who has owned the store since autumn 2011, will close it on Monday, April 11 when his lease comes to an end.

Two members of staff, manager Clare Jones and part-time sales assistant Mitra Ellis, will lose their jobs.

Precious Love is the latest independent business to close this year following St Audrey’s gift shop, which was also in Duke Street, and florist Stemtation in Market Place Mews.

Mr Bulgarelli said: “I think it’s a divergence of economic realities.

“We have found very much, and I think other independent retailers in Henley would amplify this, that the trading environment is becoming very tough, particularly for independents. I don’t think Henley is the retail destination it once was. We have noticed a significant decline in footfall.

“Henley, I think, is becoming marginalised in terms of a shopping experience and I think we have suffered as a result.

“If you’re a chain you can make it work as you have economies of scale and you can buy much cheaper but for independents it’s tough.”

Mr Bulgarelli said there had been a “seismic” shift in the economy which, when coupled with increases in shop rents and changes in people’s shopping habits, was affecting high street businesses.

He said: “People are less inclined to treat themselves — at the end of the day, you don’t need jewellery.

“Landlords are still pushing up rental prices. The business rates are expensive so it just became an expensive proposition having a footprint.

“You do feel a lot of the time you are working for other people — for the landlord and the Government.

“Last year was difficult and more challenging than 2014, apart from Christmas but you can’t really survive on just Christmas.

“Valentine’s Day used to be really big for jewellers but it’s not anymore. Now people like to do things together rather than have things.” Mr Bulgarelli added: “We’re really disappointed to close — we have got really loyal customers and we have built up good relationships with other businesses in Henley.”

The shop is having a large closing down sale, allowing customers to complete their collections, and will then continue to trade online.

Mr Bulgarelli said: “I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve got to know quite a few of the customers and we have run some hilarious and great events.”

The business won the town’s Christmas window display competition in 2010 and the best Henley Royal Regatta window display in 2012.

In 2011 it launched a competition to find Henley’s most romantic person by displaying messages of love in its window on Valentine’s Day.

The business was relaunched in October 2011 and the event was attended by Angie Best, mother of model and TV personality Calum Best, who recently opened a gym off Marlow Road.

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