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This Week in History...

The future of Allders looked grim, Christmas sales boomed, and the future of bespoke tailoring was debated.

5 years ago…

The Allders name was on the brink of disappearing from the UK high street reported Drapers on December 11 2004, as property firm Minerva tried to sell off the beleaguered department store group.

Industry sources believed the retailer’s chief executive Terry Green would struggle to find backing to finance an MBO, and that there were few potential buyers. The result would be the break up of Allders, with its stores sold off to other retailers.

There was better news for indie retailers, with Christmas sales buoyant over the previous fortnight, although the decision on whether to go on Sale before Christmas was proving a bone of contention for many.

According to a Drapers poll, a small majority of mainstream womenswear indies said trading was up on the year before. However, a third said they would start to discount before Christmas, while the rest were determined to hold out.

Marian Dingwall, co-owner of Marian’s of Perth in Scotland, said: “We go on Sale next Friday. There’s been so much hype in the press about discounts that everyone is expecting that.”

However, Jan Shutt, owner of Sunday Best in Rawtenstall, Lancashire, said: “People are coming in for presents and asking if we are going on Sale before Christmas. If you want to open the present on Christmas morning, then it’s full price; if you want it discounted then you have to wait until Boxing Day.” 

Also this week, Inditex-owned womenswear chain Bershka made its UK debut at Gateshead MetroCentre, while high street multiples unveiled their core collections for spring 05 – see this week’s gallery for some of the key styles.

24 years ago…

Retailers were heading for a bumper Christmas, according to Drapers’ December 4 1985 issue, with sales well up on the previous year.

After two successive months of decline, sales leapt in November and most high streets were crowded with shoppers on the first Saturday in December.

Allders of Croydon store director Peter Saunders said Saturday had been an all-time record for the store, with womenswear selling particularly well.

At House of Fraser, merchandise and marketing director Peter Brimacomb said: “We are significantly ahead of last year. Cosmetics, fashion accessories and lingerie are performing up to expectations and men’s and women’s fashion is very strong.”

John Lewis also reported impressive sales. The Retail Consortium’s director general, Tom McNally, believed the spending spree was being financed by current “good lines of credit”.

Elsewhere this week, a retailer opened what it claimed to be the biggest boyswear shop in the UK. Jeffreys, which had been established for more than 25 years in Edgware, north London, added the new, larger store in Golders Green targeting boys aged between eight and 18.

45 years ago…

A big drive to increase British fashion exports was announced in the December 12 1964 issue of Drapers, as the three main groups responsible for promoting sales overseas all revealed campaigns.

Hopes were raised that the groups might collaborate on this effort. The British Fashion Export Group’s six-point programme included “contact with all other clothing trade bodies to co-ordinate national efforts in the achievement of the aims of the Group on behalf of the industry” among its aims.

The newest and smallest group – the Associated Fashion Designers of London – planned an ambitious week-long show in 1965 to exhibit “the London look”. It invited the other groups to work with it on this, but had so far received no replies to this.

The third group, The Fashion House Group, was due to hold its AGM, at which co-operation with other bodies was on the agenda. 

Also in the news this week, department store Beatties of Birkenhead completed a £250,00 expansion programme, a year after Beatties acquired the store from previous owner Allansons.

Space was increased by 12,000 sq ft and the store now had 28 departments. Fashion departments, which were all on the first floor, received a major facelift. A picture of new store in this week’s gallery shows the blouses and knitwear section on the first floor. 

A fashion spread this week looked at the latest women’s eveningwear, some of which is seen in this week’s gallery. 

85 years ago…

The future of bespoke tailoring was debated at a meeting of the National Federation of Merchant Taylors (NFMT) in Burnley, reported Men’s Wear (later incorporated into Drapers) on December 13 1924.

NFMT honorary treasurer John Leadbitter of Newcastle upon Tyne said although many members had complained that change was happening too quickly, they would have to accept that this was inevitable due to a climate of progress around the world.

Foresight was the key to survival, he said, in terms of important developments in garment styles, fabrications and how business was conducted.

It was felt that the small tailors’ workshop would become obsolete due to increased costs,  legislative supervision and regulations of working conditions, and so the NFMT had set up an experimental combined workshop in which tailors could work in a communal setting. If it proved a success, the Federation saw no reason why it shouldn’t be rolled out across the country.

A picture in this issue highlighted the latest men’s overcoat styles.

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