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This Week in History...

Analysts raised concerns about Arcadia’s profitability, Tesco started selling clothing for the first time, and there was a curious case of a rotten shirt.

10 years ago….

Arcadia’s first-half results were the big story in the October 23, 1999 issue of Drapers, after analysts raised concerns about profitability at the retail fashion group, owner of chains including Dorothy Perkins, Topshop and Topman.

Pre-tax profits for the six months were in line with City expectations at £46.1m, compared with £81m the year before. Sales were up 3.6% to £1.5bn.

However, the profits included £19m of cost savings, leading analysts to question the group’s performance. One said: “If you take away the £19m savings you are not left with that much and if the trading picture remains as tough as it is it could leave the group financially vulnerable.”

Arcadia finance director Nigel Hall responded: “I won’t argue that the top line has to grow. We do not believe that cost cutting is the route to success for Arcadia.”

Department store chain Debenhams was also in the news, after announcing that it would widen its designer division into kidswear, with the launch of Junior J by Jasper Conran.

The range, targeting girls and boys from newborn to three years old, and boys only from three to eight years, was to go into 23 stores this autumn before a 60-store roll-out for autumn 2000.

35 years ago…

“Loose, easy to wear and supple styling” were the key stories at ready-to-wear womenswear show Pret a Porter in Paris, reported Drapers on October 26, 1974.

The biggest new fashion item however was the dress, “which is back with a bang after seasons of neglect”, with simple tent shapes the predominant silhouette.

The nautical look, 1950s influences and a sporty theme were also some of the big trend stories, some of which can be seen in the gallery. 

Children’s TV characters The Wombles were highly unlikely to turn up as a trend in Paris, but their popularity was such that Wombles Limited, the company holding the image rights for the furry creatures, was forced to take out an ad in Drapers this week to warn that anyone illegally using the characters on clothing would be prosecuted. 

50 years ago…

Drapery and clothing – shirts, towels, tablecloths and umbrellas – were to be sold for the first time in Tesco, wrote the October 24, 1959 issue of Drapers.

The ranges debuted in the supermarket chain’s latest store at Hatfield, Hertfordshire, and were also set to launch in sores in Maidstone, Maidenhead and Staines before Christmas.

When asked whether it was planning significant expansion into clothing, a Tesco spokesman said: “This is our first real venture into the field and we must find out from the public whether it is what they want.”

Waitrose and John Lewis were also reported to be planning to experiment with clothing ranges, and both retailers were set to introduce lingerie the following year. They already sold hosiery and plastic raincoats.

In this month’s issue of Cloth & Clothes (later incorporated into Drapers), the magazine identified a slim, British-influenced silhouette in menswear from around the world, when it visited the Groupe des 5 exhibitions at Hotel Crillon in Paris. Some examples are in this week’s gallery.

85 years ago…

A curious case of rotten shirt armpits concerned Men’s Wear (later incorporated into Drapers) on October 25, 1924, and the case was held up as an example of the problems that fashion retailers can have with customers.

Morgan & Ball, a retailer of Cheapside in London, sold several coloured zephyr shirts of good quality to a customer, only for the disgruntled shopper to turn up just over a month later complaining that one of the shirts was sub-standard.

Drapers reported: “On examination it was seen the material had rotted under each armpit, though the other parts of the shirt remained practically as sound as when new.”

The customer said his other shirts had been worn just as much, but were “still sound in every respect.”

The shirt was sent to the suppliers for their opinion. Their view was that the trouble was due “either to some peculiarity in the perspiration of the wearer, or to the use of deleterious chemicals by the laundry.”

However, the customer retorted that he had never had another shirt rot in such a way, leaving Men’s Wear to appeal to its readers to find out if any of those in the shirting trade could throw any light on the mystery.

A picture story this week highlighted Burberry’s winter sportswear on sale at its store on Haymarket, London.

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