Henfield Furnishings, one of the longest serving shops on our High Street, will be closing its doors on 28 February after 45 years in the village. An absolute ‘go-to’ shop which combines the very practical with the very beautiful, the closure of this wonderfully colourful bazaar of delights will be a huge loss to the fabric of our high street.
The freehold of the building was purchased back in 1972 by Henfield’s Malcolm and Angela Reid in partnership with Mike and Jenny Avery from Horsham. Those who have long memories will remember the shop as ‘Scats’ – and its change to ‘The Averys of Henfield (Furnishings)’. Five years later, when Mike and Jenny retired, it became Henfield Furnishings Limited, focussing mainly on furnishing fabrics with some cookware essentials.
Malcolm said; “We have employed very few people in the 45 years of owning Henfield Furnishings as they remained very loyal and happy working for us. However, changes in the personal situations of our current staff means that two of them have recently left the village and a third follows soon. After much reflection, we have decided to end on a high note and close the business now. Changes in retail habits, including online shopping and the lack of an optimistic future in high street retail trade nationally, make it unfair to train new staff without the prospect of long-term employment.”
During the 1970s, Malcolm and Angela developed Caudle Street, in conjunction with Alf Gander from Vinalls, to create access and a shopping area from the Henfield Hall through to the High Street. Around this time Alf gifted a plot of land next to the Henfield Hall to provide free parking for the village. Malcolm and Angela have noticed the negative impact of recent car parking charges implemented by Horsham District Council. Angela commented; “The infliction of car parking charges has seen footfall in our Henfield shop drop sharply since last April. A substantial amount of our turnover came from visitors to Henfield.”
There have been many changes and challenges over the past years and one of the secrets of Henfield Furnishings’ success was always to place themselves at the forefront of retail trends, to keep a keen eye on shopping habits and respond quickly to the markets. They began increasing their kitchenware product lines during the 1980s with the popularity of TV celebrity chefs. Their longest-standing staff member of 25 years, Gill Feltham, remembers a particular egg whisk used by Delia Smith as being a record-breaking seller. She said; “Malcolm and Angela always allowed us to develop the shop as we felt best, both to serve the village and also to attract customers from outside Henfield. Some of you may remember that we were right there at the explosion of the fashion for Christmas decorations and fabrics in the late nineties. There was one year during the Christmas Shopping Evening when we had to close our doors because there was no room for more customers!”
It is very sad to think that the Henfield Furnishings windows will soon be standing empty, when their displays have always added such sparkle to the high street. They have been an absolute delight for window-shoppers, always capable of stopping passing customers in their tracks to tempt them inside. Staff are proud to have won numerous prizes for their artistic, witty and clever displays, especially during the Christmas Shopping events. They have wholeheartedly joined in Henfield Trader competitions, always supporting initiatives to improve the village. Most recently they won the 2017 award for Best Christmas Window Display and their 2016 window graced the cover of the December issue of BN5 magazine, epitomising the magic of Christmas. Chairman of Henfield Parish Council, Malcolm Eastwood, commented; ““We are sorry to be losing Henfield Furnishings from our village. It has been an attractive addition to our High Street, somewhere for visitors to find different and useful gifts. Our thanks go to all of the team at Henfield Furnishings and we send them our best wishes for the future”.
The loss of Henfield Furnishings to the village is immeasurable. Staff have always been incredibly supportive of the Henfield Theatre Company, regularly acting as box office for events and incorporating show promotion into their window displays. In fact, both Malcolm and Angela, as actors, directors and backstage, have been immensely influential in the theatre life of the village; but that’s for another article.
Angela said; “The future of the premises will remain in limbo for a few months until we deal with unsold stock. Our thanks to our regular and loyal customers for their support over the years. Our heartfelt thanks too, to our wonderful staff, particularly those of the past few years – Gill, Katrina, Jo, Izzy and Sandra, all of whom have worked with courtesy, energy and enthusiasm.”
A final thank-you must go to Angela and Malcolm. For their tireless energy, for their investment in Henfield, and for continuing to serve the village during 45 years of changes, ideas and innovations which have all been embraced and celebrated. The village will miss this wonderful shop. Henfield Furnishings will be a very hard act to follow.