The end of the beginning

    Perk & Pearl to close as it outgrows traditional retail

    Perk & Pearl Tunbridge Wells

    There will be another hole in the high street next month after Joe Lloyd, the proprietor of coffee specialists Perk & Pearl, announced his intention to shut up shop after three years on Grove Hill Road.

    However, unlike many high street retailers who are battling to stay afloat amidst fierce online competition and soaring rents, the small coffee shop opposite Hoopers could be considered a victim of its own success.

    Despite being hit hard by the collapse of Turners Fine Foods last month, which they supplied, Mr Lloyd is taking advantage of his expiring lease to reinforce his online presence and expand his range through other retailers.

    “The business has really turned into a wholesale one over the years. It was always my intention to build a brand and the shop was, in a way, a lateral way of going about it.

    “Most people build the brand before they go into retail, not the other way round, but now these four walls are too constraining.”

    Having established a reputation for high quality and specialist coffee through the shop, it was not long before other retailers and cafés, such as Javabean Café, Chegworth Farm Shop and Rustic Café, were stocking Perk & Pearl’s products.

    Mr Lloyd is also the official supplier of Dame Kelly Holmes’ coffee range, and even the Italian coffee machine company Gaggia.

    This made having a shop of his own increasingly redundant, time consuming, and even detrimental to further growth, Mr Lloyd explained, due to a fear of ‘cannibalising’ his own business.

    He added: “I could put someone in the shop and let it tick over, but I would still have to manage it and I feel that by being here I have helped to create the brand and would worry it would no longer be the same.”

    But there are personal downsides for Mr Lloyd, who said he would miss featuring local artists in the store’s ‘tiny’ gallery and hosting pop-up restaurants, when the shop finally closes on September 24.

    Although the closure of a shop is an unusual sign of success, Mr Lloyd is less optimistic about the general health of the high street, saying he’d seen a ‘notable’ decline in footfall over the years.

    “The face of the high street is changing. While cafés are becoming very popular for traditional retailers it is a struggle as they battle high rents, expensive parking and online shopping.”

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