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This week in history...

Indies were outraged at a pub ban on brands, Chelsea Girl said the chain would not be closed, and fake M&S parties swept the country.

5 years ago….

Marks & Spencer lost ground in the clothing war with supermarkets in the August 28 2004 issue of Drapers, after George at Asda knocked it from top spot in terms of clothing and footwear market share by volume.   

M&S retained its market share of 9.1% for the 12 weeks to July 25 but George upped its share from 7.3% to 9.4%, according to figures from research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres.

M&S had cut its clothing and footwear prices by 5%, but Asda retaliated by slashing prices by a massive 16%.  

Tesco emerged as a major force in the clothing market as its volume share rose from 3.9% to 6.5%, putting it in fourth place. 

Elsewhere, independent retailers in Leicester were outraged after two pubs in the city banned brands which they believed were associated with football hooliganism.

The banned brands included Burberry, Henri-Lloyd, Stone Island and Aquascutum, and Chris Scotney, owner of Leicester menswear indie Christopher Scotney, said: “It’s ludicrous. To brand someone as a hooligan because of the clothes they wear is almost like racial prejudice.”

Also, this week, the legal implications for retailers and brands of selling T-shirts with subverted brand logos was examined.

T-shirt designs with pastiches of corporate logos were becoming ever more popular, although Stephen Sidkin of law firm Fox Williams said those businesses who create and sell the designs potentially at risk of trademark and copyright infringement.

20 years ago…

Director Leonard Lewis refuted rumours of the demise of the 134-store women’s young fashion chain Chelsea Girl in Drapers’ September 2 1989 issue.  

The runaway success of the River Island chain since it opened its first store in July 1988 fuelled speculation that Chelsea Girl and sister fascia Concept Man would be scrapped, as the Lewis family owned all the businesses.

However, Lewis said there was room for both Chelsea Girl and River Island on the high street, adding that River Island targeted 20 to 30-year-old men and women while Chelsea Girl focused on teenage shoppers.

River Island had grown to 28 shops since its launch, and there were plans to hit 80 stores by autumn this year.

A fashion feature this week advised buying shorter dresses for spring 90, while cocktail suits pants, skirts and tops were suitable for most occasions. Eveningwear shone with satin, sequins, chiffon and crêpe.  

40 years ago…

Fake M&S parties were sweeping the country, reported Drapers on August 30 1969, as housewives held fake “St Michael” parties to sell “rubbish” as Marks & Spencer merchandise.

A successful prosecution had already been brought under the Trade Descriptions Act following a “Bargain St Michael Night” at a private house in Wigan, Lancashire, while weights and measures inspectors were investigating other cases.

A spate of parties had also been reported in north Wales, Lancashire and Yorkshire. M&S told Drapers the goods on offer were “unbranded rubbish, badly made-up and even unfinished in some cases”.

Also in the news was clothing supplier Bairnswear, a subsidiary of Courtaulds, whose Armagh factory was destroyed in Ulster riots. The company lodged a £1.1m claim for damages with Armagh County Council.

“A novel method of attracting attention to counters selling stockings and pantyhose” was also reported on, after the Ballito brand created a mechanical demonstrator operated by a multi-track tape unit “controlling action and voice”.

The brand’s sales promotion manager Joseph Lambregts claimed that wherever it had been used sales had risen by between 100% and 150%.

Drapers also featured some of the latest autumn styles from Paris.

70 years ago…

Drapers scolded retailers on September 2 1939 for failing to stock up on air-raid precaution fabrics, despite being advised to do so by the magazine as far back as October 15 1938.

However, many retailers ignored the advice, and following the Civil Defence Bill of June 1939, a Manchester wholesaler wrote to Drapers wondering why retailers were not stocking up.

He wrote: “Is it that retailers cannot afford to place in stock or to order for forward delivery goods which they must know perfectly well will be required, and most probably in a desperate hurry, at a later date?”

Nevertheless, “the expected happened on Thursday”, wrote Drapers, with customers clamouring for dark blinds, curtains – anything to comply with blackout regulations. Retailers invaded the warehouses, all wanting in a desperate hurry goods they were urged to buy months ago.

“Soon, ‘sold out!’ echoed through the warehouses. There were, of course, a proportion of ‘wise virgins’ in the retail who on the Thursday night still had fair stocks ready for late comers. They deserved all the business they booked.”

The air-raid threat was also illustrated in this issue by pictures of John Lewis installing protective measures against incendiary bombs on the roof of its London Oxford Street store. However, normal life continued, as shown by a window in Marks & Spencer’s London Marble Arch branch, which was praised for its imaginative display of blouses.

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