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We had to move from Trowbridge centre, say HJ Knee family
Relocating HJ Knee after 130 years has caused a lot of sadness, but was an opportunity which couldn’t be missed, said the family behind the firm.
Director Jonathan Knee and his uncle Peter, direct descendants of founder Henry Robert Knee, said the prolonged recession prompted the move.
The new store will focus on electrical and home goods, meaning many of the firm’s current product lines will be discontinued.
Jonathan Knee said: “There’s a lot of sadness, but a fair few people have said they can’t wait to see the new shop, and are glad we are staying in Trowbridge,” he said.
Peter Knee said car parking charges in the town centre had influenced their decision.
“It is a factor, but not the major factor,” he said. “One of the main factors is the prolonged recession.
“We’ve been through them before, and we always planned that we’d weather the storm.
"But this time everyone feels the town centre has left us; starting with Woolworths, then The Gateway opened on the other side of town, which was a body blow.
“Boots left, Argos left, New Look left; these are big names that drew people into the town, and that will affect the town centre.”
The decision to move was made within the last six months, with the company visiting the Spitfire park several times to check its viability as a new location.
Jonathan Knee said: “We have been working on improving our retail business for many, many years, and 99 per cent of those plans have been located here in Fore Street.
“The opportunity, and I would call it an opportunity, came to take over the old Comet building. That retail park is incredibly popular, it has some very good brands there, and it’s very busy.
“A lot of our items are bulky, and people tend to buy larger things, like appliances, which they need their cars for.”
The firm has signed a lease for the new site, but will continue to own all its current town centre properties.
Peter Knee said: “We still have a big interest in the town centre with these buildings, and we are looking at making sure they are used to the best of their potential. We have no plans to sell them.”
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