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DAVE BURGESS
Last updated 05:00 14/06/2014

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Today marks the first time in 117 years that Wellington's premier department store, Kirkcaldie & Stains, has opened a new branch.

The 800-square-metre Kirkcaldie & Stains Interiors on Thorndon Quay threw open its doors today to sell all manner of interior furnishings, including lighting, mirrors, linen and pictures.

Kirks last opened a branch in 1897 when it bought an existing drapery business in Napier. The Cyclopedia of New Zealand said the shop sold a huge range of merchandise, from hosiery and lace to linoleum and bedding.

It also recorded that "the large plate glass windows are tastefully arranged with the latest goods" - still a feature of the Lambton Quay department store.

Flagging fortunes resulted in the Napier branch being sold in 1917.

Kirkcaldies managing director John Milford said today's retailing environment meant there was not enough space at Kirks' flagship Lambton Quay store to make a real fist of selling interior fashions.

The decision to open on Thorndon Quay was informed by a variety of factors.

"We had feedback from a number of New Zealand manufacturers that actually, there weren't too many places in Wellington city that were selling their products.

"And to be honest, you can't really afford to sell this sort of product in the middle of the city. You have to get out to a bigger space on the outskirts."

Another reason for locating on Thorndon Quay was that it was "still very accessible to the Kirks customer profile . . . and there's free car parking on Saturdays and Sundays."

Milford said he was on the hunt for extra staff to help at the shop, which has a "soft opening" today, followed by a grand opening next Saturday.

The Kirks branch is in the Woolstore Design Centre at 262 Thorndon Quay alongside other retailers including Corso de' Fiori, Kitchens on Thorndon, and Vast Interiors.

Woolstore Design Centre executive director Paul Robinson said last month that about $5 million had been spent strengthening the building, lifting it from earthquake-prone to 75 per cent of new building standard.

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