Argenteus closing Covent Garden hub after 13 years

argenteus-christmas.jpg

Silver and designer jewellery retailer impacted by changes to area.

Jewellery retailer Argenteus has announced that it will close down its Covent Garden store next week, after 13 years of business.

The central London store will close its doors on December 6. The company’s managing director and co-founder Ian Middleton said that trade has been impacted by recent changes to the tone of the Covent Garden Piazza area, fluctuations in footfall and turnover, and ongoing increases in rent, rates and service charges.

"All have all conspired to make the continuation of the store untenable in the current economic climate," he said.

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"After an acrimonious lease renewal two years ago, we were effectively forced into accepting a rent increase which was well beyond all expectations at the time. Sales then were reasonably healthy, so we believed we could swallow the higher overheads. Frustratingly though, turnover began to slip almost from the day we signed the new lease. Whilst the store is still profitable at the moment, we’re seeing costs rising every year, not least the escalation of business rates which are due to rise by over 3% next year, and service charges which have increased by 50% over the past three years."

Middleton and Argenteus co-founder, buyer and creative director Fiona Mawson took the decision to end the lease on the store, despite asking the landlord, Capco, to reduce the rent to reflect current trading conditions.

"This was in the knowledge that many other stores around us, particularly the newer ones, were already on significantly lower rents. When it became apparent that this was never going to happen, we reluctantly placed the store on the market," Middleton says. "In view of the high stakes involved, we didn’t see a long term future for Argenteus in Covent Garden and so felt it was better to leave on our own terms, rather than wait for things to deteriorate any further."

The business, which sells silver jewellery and work by a range of independent jewellery designers, in particular British talent, will close before Christmas despite attempts to stay open in the weeks before.

"Unfortunately, delays in negotiating our exit have meant that the store will now close just before Christmas on Friday December 6," says Middleton. "Obviously, we were not keen to close at such a key time of the year, not least because we didn’t want to make staff redundant just before Christmas or let down customers who we know were getting ideas for gifts. However, due to the nature of the agreement [with the landlord], we have no choice."

It is understood the space has been rented to a cosmetics or beauty brand, which will bring the total number of cosmetic and beauty retailers in the immediate area to seven.

Middleton concedes that, lease aside, the company has also been impacted by the downturn in consumer spending and the impact of the internet, and in particular the shift towards own-brand retail stores.

However the company has plans in place to create an online jewellery portal, featuring British designers and manufacturers of jewellery, clothing and accessories, set to launch in 2014. Middleton says the company is also in discussions with department stores with a view to opening concessions in key locations.

"[Us] directors also have a number of other business and retail projects not associated with jewellery that we are looking to pursue in the coming months," Middleton explained. "[However] trade has been very brisk since the Covent Garden store launched its closing down sale last week, with reductions of up to 50% throughout the store, customers are buying early as they realise we won’t be there for the final run up to the big day.

"As we enter our 13th year of trading in Covent Garden, taking the decision to close the store has been a very difficult and emotional one for us. We’d like to thank our Covent Garden staff, our wonderful customers, our suppliers and the dedicated and talented designers we work with, for their business and help over the past years and for their kind and supportive comments since we announced the closure last week."

Read Middleton’s full opinion and background on Argenteus’ closure online by clicking here.
 

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