Based on the High Street, Payne and Son offers a beautiful range of luxury jewellery, bridal jewellery and silverware, as well as designer watches and world-famous porcelain. Jo Wicker and Denise Haigh tell us what customers can expect and why business is still thriving after two centuries…
Tell us how you got involved in the business Denise:
I joined in 1988 as a part-time temp; it gradually built up over the years and I now do the administrative, financial side. Jo has been here for five years, operating and keeping on top of the website, Facebook and Twitter and doing the display work and advertising. We’ve all got our areas of expertise, but run it between us and work together as a team.
Why is the High Street so appealing as a setting?
Jo: We love the High Street and have a very soft spot for the area. It’s got a lot of history and great architecture between here and The Pantiles and sums up typical Tunbridge Wells in a nutshell.
Denise: It’s a tourist end as well, so you tend to get passing trade, especially during the summer. This end of the town offers a lot of diversity, so people come down here to see something a little bit different. A lot of the independents are down this end, so it’s got a lot to offer.
What can customers expect from your range?
Jo: We have a pool of suppliers and pick and choose exceptional pieces, as well as our bread and butter stock. Our bestsellers are always going to be diamonds, followed closely by classic sapphires, rubies and emeralds. We try to have a selection of more unusual stones as well.
How do you set yourselves apart from the competition?
Denise: The advantage of being an independent is that we’re not constrained by a central company; we can make our own decisions and see what suppliers we want to see. A lot of them are suppliers we’ve dealt with for many years, so they’re tried and tested and always supply superb quality goods. We have the ability to try something different.
Jo: There are a lot of people in Tunbridge Wells who are looking for something a bit different; they don’t want the run-of-the-mill, they want something that’s going to be individual. It’s a good education for some clients as well. We have so many people who come in and don’t know what they want, and we’re lucky enough to have such a diverse range of different stones and things that people have never even heard of.
Do you offer a lot of bridal wear?
Jo: Wedding bands are probably top of the list there, but we’ve also got a huge selection of pearls, which are always very popular for weddings, even going down to little gifts for ushers and bridesmaids. We always try to cover the whole spectrum and offer a selection of bridal gifts.
And your watch range?
Denise: We’re the sole agents in this area for Mondaine watches, which are very popular. We also do watch repair work, which is a big part of our business, and offer an evaluation service, which a lot of jewellers no longer do, so we get quite a lot of take-up on that. That’s a very good service to offer, which is appreciated.
In what ways can clients maintain the quality of their purchases?
Jo: A lot of pieces of jewellery do need special care, so we always ensure that we tell people how to look after their items. We’ve also got a selection of cleaning materials that we can advise people on. We can clean certain stones on the premises, or if they want something polished, we can send it to the workshop.
You also sell a range of porcelain – how does this enhance your overall offering?
Jo: We’ve had the porcelain for about three or four years, so it’s still a relatively new venture for us. It’s another string to our bow and certainly something a bit different, but it does complement the jewellery and luxury gift side. The jewellery and silver is always going to be our main business.
Where would you like to see the company go in the future?
Denise: Onward and upward. It hasn’t been an easy few years with the economic climate the way it’s been. The luxury end of the market has suffered and the average spend has gone down slightly, so it’s been a case of trying to guess what people are going to want to buy. Throughout everything, we’ve always tried to keep that traditional look, because that’s our trademark that people love and expect of us.
37 HIGH STREET, TUNBRIDGE WELLS, KENT TN1 1XL | 01892 525 874 | www.payneandson.com