Wickes returns to the high street

Published:  12 December, 2011

TUNBRIDGE WELLS: Home improvement retailer Wickes has opened its first high street store, reversing a trend dating back more than two decades.

For years, DIY chains have concentrated on constructing ever larger sheds at the edge of towns or in retail parks.

Wickes said its 65m2 micro-store in Tunbridge Wells, Kent, was part of a wider strategy to enable people to order from stores, through the catalogue or through its website.

Wicke's move chimes with efforts to revive high street retailing. A back-to-basics world of market stalls run by entrepreneurial traders is at the heart of a plan to turn around Britain's ailing high streets by the retail 'troubleshooter' Mary Portas.

More than 30 recommendations from Ms Portas, set out in a review published tomorrow, call for a bonfire of red tape and are expected to be welcomed by David Cameron, who commissioned her to take on the study seven months ago.

The Prime Minister had said he hoped the review would help "create vibrant and diverse town centres and bring back the bustle to our high streets".

Despite Ms Portas' retailing zeal directed at struggling high streets, her review will warn that the many challenges facing stores will not be solved overnight.

Wickes is eyeing more locations to make the most of cheaper rents as High Street stores shut up shop. 

The Kent store will stock 2500 products on its shelves with the same number again available from the stock room. The rest of its range will be available for next-day delivery.

"This will be well positioned for people who want to pick things up in their lunch hour or on their way home from work," said Simon Holder, Wickes' multi-channel development director.

The company appointed Asda executive Simon King as managing director last month.

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