My sister Penny Kingham who lives in Rye recently sent me (in Australia) your story regarding W J Bennett’s 100th anniversary .
I grew up in Rye and worked at Bennett’s for perhaps 18 months to two years in the 1960s when David Padgham owned the business.
Trade was always fairly good with a mix of locals and tourists. Being a big stockist of Jaeger knitwear and classic Glen Forest sports coats as well as younger fashion labels such as Ben Sherman, John Wesley Hardy and Fox gave the business a good cross-section of customers.
Many younger customers didn’t always have the ready cash to buy fashion on a regular
basis, but Mr Padgham was a trusting soul so we used to run customer cards for a
lot of Rye’s younger guys so that they could keep up their fashion wardrobes.
It’s probably a little known fact that the Ben Sherman shirt company introduced Fabergé Brut to the market by giving away sampler phials with their shirts.
I used to dress the display windows regularly with plenty of colour, which I know is still very much the way today – every time I visit, the display always is very colourful, which is great to see.
One of my distinct memories was of a charity fashion parade held at The George in conjunction, I think, with the women’s retailer RoseAnne that was in the High Street.
As a self-conscious 16-year-old it was a nerve-wracking and possibly embarrassing experience. If my memory is correct we dressed in Bennett’s back room and dashed across the road to parade – getting into skin-tight jeans meant laying on the floor to zip them up.
It is great to see that the business is still thriving – independent operators seem to have fared better in smaller towns away from the bigger centres and cities.
I had menswear stores in Perth, Western Australia for 37 years and sadly
rent and wages became the major problem in trying to maintain a profit
as an independent.
I wish Andrew all the best in maintaining the business and credit goes
to his father Frank for steering it in the right direction for so many
years. May it continue to flourish.
I always visit Rye when I travel to Europe so will no doubt call in to
say hello next year, in the meantime trade well and enjoy the celebrations!
I hope this is of interest.
Image Credits: Hayley May .