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This week in history...

M&S was forced to wait for Kate Bostock to serve her notice, US group Broadway Hale eyed a stake in House of Fraser, and the Prime Minister’s wife angered retailers.

2004…

Marks & Spencer was forced to wait until autumn 05 before new womenswear head Kate Bostock’s influence would be seen on its collections, reported Drapers on May 22 2004. Drapers said it would cause “a major delay in its revival plans”.

An M&S spokeswoman confirmed that Bostock would have to complete a six-month notice period with her current employer, George at Asda, where she was design director.

A source close to M&S added: “The team is aware Bostock won’t exert her full influence for some time but they are taking steps to bridge between where they are now and where they expect to be when she takes control. That will probably include some price realignments.”

It was speculated that Bostock’s appointment at M&S could spark a power struggle at the chain, which could see the departure of creative director Yasmin Yusuf.  

Also in the news was women’s young fashion chain Jane Norman, which unveiled a new shopfit (pictured) for its stores. The “nightclub” look was launched in Edinburgh’s Ocean Terminal shopping centre for a three-month trial, after which it was expected to be rolled out to other branches.

Value retailer TK Maxx was also in the spotlight in this issue, after tripling its share of UK clothing sales from 0.6% to 1.7% between 1999 and 2003, according to figures from consultancy Verdict Research.

1974…

US retail group Broadway Hale was expected to seize a 29% stake in department store business House of Fraser (HoF), according to the May 25 1974 issue of Drapers.

A proposed merger between HoF and high street pharmacy chain Boots had been thrown out by the Monopolies Commission, clearing the way for Broadway Hale to acquire the stake from Scottish and Universal Investments, a company which was also chaired by HoF chairman Hugh Fraser.

It was thought that the HoF and Boots merger was rejected due to “fears for an apparent concentration of retailing”, wrote Drapers. It pointed out that John Methven, director general of the British Office of Fair Trading,  who referred the merger to the Commission, was “keeping a very watchful eye on the size of retail companies as ‘bigness’ is not necessarily to the benefit of the consumer.”

Drapers’ sister title Fashion Weekly drew readers’ attention to the “assured success” of character merchandise in the same week. Cartoon strip Peanuts was providing the latest triumph for retailers, with the gang including Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Lucy and Schroeder appearing on everything from T-shirts (pictured), posters, key rings, mugs and balloons.

Back in Drapers, “big and beautiful” quilted housecoats were backed as an autumn winner for women (pictured).

1959…

“It is no longer enough to sell children’s clothes,” reported the May 23 1959 issue of Drapers, “fashion must be sold as well.”

RF Jarrett, manager of retailer Stanley J Lee of Edgware, north London, told a conference organised by the Drapers’ Chamber of Trade in London that a new approach was needed in selling kidswear.

After experiencing poor sales of kidswear “for some time”, Jarrett found that by overhauling the kidswear offer with a more fashionable look, sales had increased.

“Fashion begins from the cradle,” said Jarrett, adding that conventional pieces “no longer meet the needs of fashion-conscious children”.

Elsewhere this week, the increasing popularity of stiletto heels was causing problems for retailers. Peter Keddie, director of Keddies of Southend-on-Sea in Essex, wrote to Drapers to add his voice to the growing number of retailers suffering damage to shop floors caused by high heels.

A new linoleum floor, replacing lino which had covered the floor for the past 30 years, had been “cut to pieces” within three months. Keddie said stiletto heels were entirely to blame, and that he had raised the issue with the Drapers’ Chamber of Trade.

A fashion spread in this issue trumpeted the return of the fitted silhouette on womenswear (pictured).

1909…

A French designer’s visit to 10 Downing Street angered Drapers on May 22 1909.  Margot Asquith, wife of Prime Minister Herbert Asquith, invited Monsieur Paul Poiret of Paris to show off his gowns (one of which is pictured).

Mrs Asquith was accused of an “astonishing indiscretion” after turning the Prime Minister’s residence into “happy hunting grounds” for foreign traders, as Poiret displayed his wares to the assembled audience, who then placed orders.

While accepting the quality of Poiret’s product, Drapers pointed out that plenty of British firms were prepared to compete with continental fashion houses “on equal terms”, but that the rent, rates and taxes imposed on British firms were putting them at a disadvantage, an issue to which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been unwilling to “lend a sympathetic ear.” 

With that in mind, Drapers wondered why the Prime Minister’s wife, of all people, “should provide showrooms free of charge, and muster a profitable constituency of customers” for a French designer.

Also in this issue, a picture story highlighted an “Ascot Lawn” (pictured) window created by department store Swan & Edgar on London’s Regent Street, which displayed seasonal gowns in a scene intended to resemble “the crowded enclosure at the famous racecourse.”

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