15:17 in Worthing, days before its opening

Behind the scenes at 15:17 – Worthing’s new department store - in pictures

A new department store opening in Worthing town centre could offer a glimpse of the future of our high streets.

Wednesday, 24th March 2021, 10:19 am

15-17 opened on Monday, December 7 in South Street, in the building formerly occupied by Beales. Shortly before it opened, the Herald spoke to store manager Matthew Amphlett about his plans for the new destination.

In a week that has seen the sad decline of Debenhams into administration – a department store known for its big brands – 15-17 places its focus on independent traders, with local people selling unique items that cannot be found anywhere else.

Store manager Matthew Amphlett said it was about offering space for local traders to get a foothold in the town centre without extortionate rates.

“We’ve got local businesses coming in and people being able to afford retail space on the high street,” he said. “We’ve got three or four different companies who have started up just in the first lockdown and it’s a chance to have something positive at the end of a tragic year.”

Where conventional department stores buy stock of larger brands to fill their premises, 15-17 charges a simple rent based on space occupied by each business. That gives traders the flexibility to rent just as much space as they need for the size of their business.

Alongside a food hall, the store will host over 40 stores of huge variety, from fashion retailers, to sports nutrition, homemade chopping boards, frozen cookie dough to take home and bake yourself and much more.

“It’s great to have these independents because they are selling things that you can’t get anywhere else,” said Matthew. “You can’t have a look around then go home and just go on the internet to find the same products. These are unique products from local people.”

He said the business model pointed towards a bright future for Worthing town centre, which has long been trying to adapt to the changing face of the town centre.

Business and political leaders have been saying town centre will soon be based around unique experiences and leisure, rather than the conventional big brands. The difficulties faced during the Covid-19 restrictions have undoubtedly accelerated many of the trends already coming to the high street, and 15-17 may be the dawn of a new era. It will open at 10am on Monday morning (December 7).

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