1967 - Quality Street
Department stores have traditionally been personified as representing 'quality' shopping. The shop's reputation is founded on factors quite distinct from the goods it sells - a pleasing ambience, courteous assistants, availability of delivery services, the opportunity to
browse casually through different departments under one roof. Emphasising these factors became even more important for department stores once the chain stores began to rival them - on price especially- for more basic items such as household goods. Until the 1960s, most towns of any size had at least one department store, engendering great customer loyalty in the area. Now, sadly, many of them have gone. In the era of large out-of-town shopping centres, is there still a place for the department store?
Williams and Griffin The department store - a kind of retail outlet quite unknown before the mid-19th century- is really a collection of specialised shops under one roof. It sells an extraordinary range of goods: 'everything from a pin to an elephant' was the boast of one. Most of the earlier stores grew from existing businesses, such as a grocer (Harrods) or a draper (Debenhams), nurtured by enterprising individual shopkeepers whose names still remain. Department stores often based their reputations on the fact that they were family firms; most now belong to business consortiums. Large-scale purchasing brought big discounts from suppliers, which in turn made it possible to sell goods more cheaply to the customer. Tone has always been important for a department store - the founder of Selfridges spoke of 'the subdued and disciplined atmosphere of a gentleman's mansion'. They have traditionally catered for the affluent middle and lower-middle classes whose tastes, discreetly and unobtrusively, they have helped mould. Department stores were among the first shops to mark prices openly, a practice once considered 'common'. Cash, however, was not always handled at the counter and some used a system of pneumatic tubes or, sometimes, a kind of miniature overhead railway to convey customers' money to and from a central office. In an era that prized goods that were 'built to last', when styles barely changed from one decade to another, these stores' biggest impact lay in establishing the notion of fashion goods, items like clothes and furniture that could be discarded long before they wore out. Still family owned, this Colchester department store is typical of manythat can be found today. The concrete and glass facade dates from the 1960s, and once again the visual emphasis is on the window display.
|1935 - Chain Store|