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This week in history...

Jack & Jones made its UK retail debut, Sir Terence Conran acquired Richard Shops, and the winners of a shop seat competition were revealed

5 years ago…

Mid-market men’s denim brand Jack & Jones was set to make its UK retail debut, wrote the October 9, 2004 issue of Drapers.

Its Danish parent group Bestseller planned to open three UK stores for the brand in the next couple of months. Two were opening at the end of October – one a 2,100 sq ft unit at the Trafford Centre in Manchester and the other a 1,600 sq ft store in the Princess Mall in Edinburgh. A third, in Glasgow, was due to open in December.

The other big news this week was that branded multiple Cromwells Madhouse was up for grabs after falling into administration.

The 52-store chain suffered a 25% dip in sales over the previous year. There was a huge gulf in the quality of stores in the portfolio, with individual store turnover over the previous 10 months varying from between £100,000 to £1.5m.

However, joint administrator Lee Manning of Deloitte expected considerable interest in the business. “Cromwells has been around for a long time and has a decent reputation,” he said. “There’s an opportunity to reorganise the business and come up with a leaner company.”

Milan Fashion Week also finished this week, and Versace caught the eye with a more sedate and elegant collection than usual.   

26 years ago…

Sir Terence Conran snapped up 217-store womenswear chain Richard Shops for £56.6m, reported Drapers on October 8, 1983.

A management buyout had been mooted, but failed to raise the cash before the deadline set by owner the Hanson Trust, leaving the way clear for Conran’s Habitat-Mothercare group to step in.

The Richard Shops management, headed by Tony Stafford, retained 4.3% of company equity and, according to brokers Laurie Millbank, Stafford would have a considerable amount of autonomy in terms of decisions on property assets and design.

The latest technology allowed Drapers to announce a fashion first this week, when it launched a video of live action from the catwalks of Milan, Paris, London and New York.

Readers could view two 35-minute presentations from the fashion weeks including the top shows, designer interviews and trend predictions. One tape combined Milan and London, the other showed Paris and New York.

A year’s subscription (four tapes) covering both seasons was available for £200, with individual tapes at £80.

Also this week, show organisers picked out the up-and-coming design talent to watch in 1984, two of which are pictured in this week’s gallery.

45 years ago…

Moves towards a standard five-day working week for retail staff gathered pace in Drapers on October 10, 1964.

Retailers including Debenhams and House of Fraser opted to introduce a five-day week for staff in all their stores before January 31, 1965. However, Debenhams stressed that conditions in seaside towns and country districts with specific market days created a separate problem.

The retailer said an agreement needed to be reached with local chambers of trade on opening days, to prevent shoppers becoming confused as to store opening times.

House of Fraser said the equivalent of a five-day week would be introduced for its staff, but with variations according to local conditions and regulations.

Drapers said that businesses taking a “wait and see” approach to the five-day week were now in the minority.

Trend-setting young women also made the news this week, after they were spotted on TV show Ready Steady Go sporting hats – a new look for the mod crowd.

Brimmed milkmaid-type pull-ons, flowered helmets and spotted cloches were among the styles worn. Teenage hostess Cathy McGowan, who introduced the newest dances each week on the TV show, explained why hats were in: “These new shapes – particularly the helmets – look really way out and are great fun to wear.”  

She added that female mods were taking their lead from Paris fashions: “For the first time in two years, girls are adapting their fashions from haute couture designs.”

A fashion spread this week focused on women’s party clothes for spring 1965.

110 years ago…

The winning designs in a shop seats competition were revealed in the October 7, 1899 issue of Drapers.

The competition, promoted by the Early Closing Association and Drapers, aimed to find the most practical kind of seat for shop assistants.

Although some of the designs displayed “ingenuity”, the magazine said there was also “much that is almost pathetic when one considers the amount of pains taken and the degree of anxiety involved in the attempt to secure an award”, complaining that some had the look of “a shaky campstool” or could only be opened after “risky struggles with intricate machinery”.

However, some designs did impress, and were inevitably those designed by experienced manufacturers. First prize went to a design by Frederick Sage & Co, an experienced shopfitting firm of Gray’s Inn Road in north London, for its Westminster Seat.

The design consisted of a smooth wood seat screwed up under the shelf which was usually found under a counter, to be drawn out when required.

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