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June Sampson's Shopwatch: Bold and the beautiful
JUNE SAMPSON casts her eye over the top-end beauty departments on offer in the borough, and argues that few towns can match Kingston’s range of counters
Kingston is well on the way to becoming the provincial beauty retailing capital of the south east.
Indeed, it may have got there already following the opening last week of sumptuous new beauty departments at Bentalls department store and John Lewis, both offering top-of-the-range brands previously available only in central London.
And then there’s Tudor Williams’s elegant re-modelling of the beauty and perfume section at its store in New Malden.
Bentalls has long been to the fore of this sector. It had Britain’s first Max Factor counter, and for years was credited with putting north Surrey among the UK’s six best areas for premium cosmetics sales.
Now, John Lewis is rivalling that pre-eminence with a dazzling new beauty department – part of a £7.5m refurbishment achieved by filling in the open space that previously gave a view of the Waitrose store below to give an extra 7,000sq ft to the ground floor.
But Bentalls will be hard to beat.
Its new-look beauty department has attracted a plethora of top brands, including Nars and its much sought-after Orgasm Multiple Stick (a combined eye shadow, blusher and lipstick, in case you are wondering).
The competition between the two stores does not end there.
Next week, John Lewis will open a new handbag section. Bentalls did exactly that last week.
Meanwhile, Tudor Williams, New Malden’s beautiful little department store, is celebrating its centenary with many temptations, including a new loyalty card, special offers everywhere, and chic new departments for handbags and shoes, as well as beauty products.
History logo: Tudor Williams, which played a key role in making New Malden a shopping destination, has been celebrating its centenary with special offers, in-store events and a gala dinner for more than 120 current and retired staff members. Local history fans have also been snapping up the firm’s special souvenir teatowels and mugs bearing the logo seen here
Many towns have no top-rank department stores at all. How lucky the royal borough is to have three.
I recall the heady years when Marks & Spencer’s Kingston branch in Clarence Street was high on the list of the firm’s top 12 stores.
It also boasted the firm’s largest food hall, and record sales of its renowned prawn sandwiches.
To my chagrin as a loyal Kingstonian, it has been overtaken by many newer and bigger branches since then.
Now, the company is going some way to redressing the balance with a multi-million pound scheme described as “a rebuild of the premises from within”.
This has entailed blocking off large sections of the store, and the work will not be finished until well after Christmas.
Meanwhile, customers were dismayed to find that the temporarily closed areas include the loos.
Thus, they are seeking relief in the Bentall Centre, which reports a marked increase in footfall and trading as a result.
That is not all that is happening at the Bentall Centre, where Fat Face closed several weeks ago for a re-fit, and will re-open on November 2.
Cos, the fashion shop beloved of fashion editors, opened there last week on the site formerly occupied by Esprit, while Dune, the fashion shoe specialist, is about to leave its present shop for larger premises in the centre.
Belle Maison, the unique family-run furniture company, also opened there last week.
And, as everyone must know by now, Yo Sushi will open soon in the new space created for it above the centre’s frontage.
Now comes news that Ernest Jones, a company specially noted for diamonds and watches since its birth in 1949, will open soon in the ground floor space formerly occupied by Yumi.
Proof of buoyant trading is that the company will also retain its present prominent premises at the junction of Clarence Street and Church Street.
Last year Game, the video game specialist, collapsed into administration with the loss of more than 2,000 jobs, and the closure of 277 branches, including its two in Kingston.
Now it has returned to life in new hands.
This week, it came back to Kingston, and opened in the shop in Clarence Street that was formerly home to Jessops, the failed camera specialist.
The improvements taking place in Kingston’s retailing are conspicuous by their absence at BhS in Eden Walk.
This was once hailed as the flagship of the BhS chain, and boatloads of national journalists were once brought up-river from London to admire its elegance.
Now, its shabbiness compares badly with its fellow stores in the Arcadia group.
This week, Arcadia head Sir Philip Green said he was planning a “quiet refit” of some of his premises.
Here’s hoping he includes Kingston.
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