Owen Owen was a Liverpool-based operator of department stores in the United Kingdom and Canada. Beginning with a drapery shop in Liverpool, a chain of department stores was built up, often by taking over rival retailers. The company remained under Owen / Norman family control[1] until the 1980s, and the brand ceased to be used in 2007.

Owen Owen Ltd
GenreDepartment store
Founded1868; 155 years ago (1868)
FounderOwen Owen
Defunct2007; 16 years ago (2007)
Key people
Owen Owen

Founder and early history Edit

Owen Owen was born on 13 October 1847 at Cwmrhaeadr near Machynlleth at the westernmost tip of Montgomeryshire, Wales.[2] His family were hill farmers. Welsh agriculture had prospered during the Napoleonic Wars when imports of food were restricted but, after the war, there was such a severe depression that in 1838 the farm which had been their home for generations had to be mortgaged and the following year sold. Owen Owen was the first child of his father's second wife, but she died after giving birth to her sixth child when Owen Owen was only eight. His mother had a brother, Samuel, who needed help to run his draper's shop in Bath; so Owen Owen went to Bath and his uncle gave him both a home and an education.[3] He was educated at the Wesleyan College, Taunton, and started working at his uncle's shop in 1860.[2]

In 1868, at the age of 20, with some help from Uncle Samuel, Owen Owen opened his own draper's emporium at 121 London Road, Liverpool,[4] close to where his father's brother, Robert, had had a shop at number 93. By 1873 Owen Owen had over 120 employees, many from Wales, and a quarter of an acre of floor space.[2] Owen Owen was interested in his staff's well-being. Besides being the first employer in Liverpool to give staff a half day off each week, he also set up a trust fund for retired employees. In the 1880s he began investing in other enterprises including railways, and in 1889 became director of Evans & Owen Ltd in Bath, the shop started by his uncle. He moved to London in 1891, after marrying, but continued to manage the Liverpool store which became one of the largest stores in the north of England. He also invested in many other stores and estates.[2] Owen's daughter went onto marry into the Liverpool based family of Norman, and it was under Duncan Norman, and then his son John, who would lead the company from the 1920s.[1]

In his private life he was an active supporter of many Welsh organisations. He died of cancer in London on 27 March 1910 at the age of 62.[2]

Expansion and collapse Edit

Owen Owen opened a drapery shop at 121 London Road, Liverpool. Over the years the store expanded, but in the 1920s when the city's retail focus moved away from the London Road area, the Owen family lent the company the money to move to a better position on Clayton Square where a large purpose-built department store (originally designed as a luxury hotel) was erected. The company then purchased rival chain T J Hughes, after a visit by then chairman Duncan Norman[5] and moved that firm's Liverpool store into the empty London Road premises.[6][7]

Owen Owen expanded by building a store in Coventry in 1937, which was bombed during World War II, and purchasing Frederick Matthews in Preston. After the war it continued to expand, purchasing G W Robinson Ltd in Canada during 1951,[8] and adding other stores to the UK portfolio while the Coventry and Southampton store were rebuilt.[9]

A subsidiary company, Plumb (Contract Furnishers and Shopfitters) Ltd., was created from its own shopfitting department and had offices at Bishop Street, Coventry and Kempston Street, Liverpool.[10] In 1973, the company won a take-over battle for South West department store group, James Colmer against English Calico and its subsidiary Hide & Co.[11][12] The purchase of James Colmer saw its profits jump from £7,181,000 in 1972 to £10,300,000 in 1973.[13] In 1976, the company purchased eight stores from the Maple Macowards group, including J H Stringer and W J Wade, and completed an exchange with House of Fraser with Wrights of Richmond being exchanged for the House of Fraser Doncaster store.[14] In 1979 the business operated 19 department stores branded either Owen Owen or under their original name but taglined as an Owen Owen store. It also operated three T J Hughes stores in the UK, and seven G W Robinson stores in Canada.[15]

In the 1980s the Owen family sold the business. G W Robinson was sold in 1982 to Canadian businessman Joseph Segal and John Levy,[8] while T J Hughes was split off as a separate entity. In 1991 the firm purchased several Lewis's stores from administration (not to be confused with John Lewis) and was known briefly under the business name of 'Lewis's Owen Owen', before being taken over by Philip Green in 1994.[16]

In 1995 Green launched the brand Kid's HQ in four of his Lewis's and Owen Owen Stores. The company was then stripped of its assets, which included the closure of the flagship Liverpool branch of Owen Owen, and was cut from twelve stores to one, Lewis's of Liverpool, following the sale of many stores to other chains including Allders and Debenhams.[16]

In early 2005, Philip Green sold his stake in the business to David Thompson who began a new phase of expansion at Owen Owen, acquiring Joplings and Robbs from the Merchant Retail Group and purchasing Esslemont & MacIntosh from the Esslemont family.[17] The Owen Owen brand name was no longer used, but remained the name of the operating company.

On 28 February 2007 Owen Owen entered administration.[18] One of the reasons given for the company's demise was the disruption caused by the Big Dig, a series of regeneration projects in Liverpool city centre.[19] The Esslemont & MacIntosh store at Aberdeen was closed on 5 May 2007.[20] In the same month the Liverpool, Hexham and Sunderland stores were sold as a going concern to Vergo Retail Ltd., controlled by the previous owner of Owen Owen, David Thompson, and enabling the stores to continue to trade.[21]

Former branches and subsidiaries Edit

Owen Owen Edit

  • Liverpool, established 1868 at London Road; relocated to Clayton Square in 1925; closed 1996[15][22][23]
  • Basingstoke, The Malls, opened 1981; closed 1992[24][25]
  • Bath, formerly James Colmer, the original name was retained on cast window frames and glass panels to the fascia after purchase in 1973; closed 1991; ground floor and partial 1st floor redeveloped as commercial units with the remainder of the building converted to residential use[15]
  • Birkenhead, opened 1959; converted to the T J Hughes format[26]
  • Brighton, formerly W J Wade, purchased 1975; closed 1981[15][22][27]
  • Bristol, formerly W Morgan, acquired with the purchase of James Colmer; closed 1973[22][28]
  • Chester, formerly Richard Jones, purchased 1960; grocery and delicatessen business William Jones, trading at the 'Three Old Arches', was purchased at a later date and incorporated into the store as a food hall; closed 1999
  • Colwyn Bay, formerly W S Wood, purchased 1975; closed 1981[29][30][15]
  • Coventry, City Centre, opened 1937; destroyed in the blitz of 1940; new building completed 1954; closed 1996[15][22][31]
  • Crawley, County Mall, opened 1992; closed 1994[22][32]
  • Doncaster, formerly Verity & Sons, purchased 1950; sold to House of Fraser in 1976[33][34]
  • Erdington, formerly W M Taylor & Sons, purchased 1971; closed 1977[22]
  • Evesham, formerly Hamilton & Bell, purchased 1975; closed 1982[15][22][35][36]
  • Finchley, formerly Priors, purchased 1963; closed 1993[15][22]
  • Hereford, Commercial Street, opened 1975; closed 1979[22][37]
  • Ilford, The Exchange, opened 1991; closed 1996[22]
  • Ipswich, Buttermarket, opened 1992; closed 1996[38]
  • Kidderminster, Swan Walk, opened 1975; closed 1992; transferred to T J Hughes[15][22]
  • Newport, formerly Reynolds, purchased 1975; closed 1989[15][22]
  • Preston, formerly Frederick Matthews, purchased 1937; closed 1989[15][22]
  • Redditch, Kingfisher Centre, opened 1980; closed 1996[22][39][40]
  • Richmond, formerly Wright Brothers, purchased from House of Fraser in 1976; closed 1990[22][41]
  • Shrewsbury, formerly R Maddox & Co, purchased 1976 from Macowards; closed 1990[15][22]
  • Slough, formerly Suters, purchased 1978; closed 1996[15][22][42]
  • Southampton, formerly E Mayes & Son, purchased 1949; closed 1994[15][22]
  • Stourbridge, formerly J H Stringer, purchased 1975; closed 1990;[43][22]the building, part of which started life as a cinema and was converted for use by Stringers, was demolished in 1995[44]
  • Taunton, formerly Clements & Brown, acquired with the purchase of James Colmer in 1973; closed 1979[22]
  • Uxbridge, formerly Suters, purchased 1978; closed 1998[15][22]
  • Weston-super-Mare, formerly B T Butter, acquired with the purchase of James Colmer in 1973; closed 1993[45][15][22]
  • Wolverhampton, Mander Centre, opened 1968; closed 1991; transferred to T J Hughes; a new store for Debenhams was later constructed on the site, closing in 2020[46][22][47][48]

T J Hughes Edit

Lewis's Edit

Purchased in 1991.

Other department stores Edit

Former G W Robinson stores in Canada Edit

The Owen Owen Trust Fund Edit

The trust fund continues as a registered charity, supporting those who were formerly employed by any company in the Owen Owen group, together with their spouses and dependents.[54]

References Edit

  1. ^ a b "The story of Owen Owen - Coventry's department store which served the city for over half a century". Coventry Live. 20 October 2020.
  2. ^ a b c d e National Library of Wales, Owen Owen, Liverpool, manuscripts, [1878]-1910 / Owen Owen. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  3. ^ "Owen Owen link to Liverpool is celebrated", Daily Post, 16 June 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  4. ^ McIntyre-Brown, Arabella (3 November 2002). Liverpool: the first 1,000 years. Garlic Press. ISBN 9781904099000 – via Google Books.
  5. ^ "The history of TJ Hughes". Liverpool Echo. 21 July 2011.
  6. ^ "Flashback: Owen Owen - from a drapers to an iconic retailer..." Liverpool Echo. 30 August 2014.
  7. ^ "My grandad's store and the end of the high street". The Guardian. 2 July 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d e "Vancouver pair buy stores from British". Times Colonist. 21 December 1982. p. 10.
  9. ^ "Company Meeting OWEN OWEN LIMITED Statement of the chairman". The Guardian. 22 April 1958. p. 13.
  10. ^ "Owen Owen Ltd, Department store group". The Times. 14 May 1975.
  11. ^ "English Calico". Beermans Financial Year Book of Europe. 1974. p. C-94.
  12. ^ "Steady Progress at Owen Owen". Investor Chronicle. Vol. 28. 1974. p. 301.
  13. ^ "Owen Owen. Department store owner". Investors Chronicle and Stock Exchange Gazette. Vol. 28. 1974. p. 964.
  14. ^ "Owen Owen". Retail Business. No. 221–226. 1976. p. 9.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p "A Family Business – Suters Ltd". Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  16. ^ a b "Trading continues after Owen Owen collapse", Drapers Online, 2 March 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  17. ^ "Owen Owen buys NE stores in £5m U-turn", Liverpool Daily Post, 20 January 2005. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  18. ^ "Owen Owen falls into administration", Retail Week, 2 March 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  19. ^ Gleeson, Bill (28 February 2007). "Lewis's owners go into administration". Liverpool Daily Post. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011.
  20. ^ Hodgson, Neil (25 April 2007). "Two still fighting it out to buy Lewis's". Liverpool Echo. Archived from the original on 16 May 2011 – via Internet Archive.
  21. ^ "Jobs saved as iconic store sold". BBC News Online. 22 May 2007.
  22. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z aa ab ac ad ae af ag ah ai aj ak al am an ao ap "Stores and Warehouse that formed part of the Owen Owen Group" (PDF). Owen Owen Trust. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  23. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  24. ^ "Then and now: The Malls". The Gazette. 13 October 2017.
  25. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  26. ^ "Réunion foe ex-Wirral shop staff". Wirral Globe. 8 April 2015.
  27. ^ "TQ3004 : 188-191, Western Road, Brighton". Geograph. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  28. ^ "Stores bonus scheme for staff". Leathergoods. 77: 66. 1955.
  29. ^ "Former W S Wood department store". History Points. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  30. ^ "Allied Maples Group' records'" (PDF). Victoria and Albert Museum: Archive of Art and Design. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  31. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  32. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  33. ^ "Doncaster's House of Fraser store to close". Doncaster Free Press. 7 June 2018.
  34. ^ Peter Tuffrey (15 February 2016). Doncaster Through Time. Amberley. ISBN 9781445654522.
  35. ^ Special Collections, Worcestershire. {{cite book}}: |work= ignored (help)
  36. ^ "Evesham, Worcestshire". English Buildings. 3 March 2015.
  37. ^ "Welfare fund for store staff". Hereford Times. 24 May 2001.
  38. ^ "25 years of the Buttermarket in Ipswich town centre". Ipswich Star. 24 February 2017.
  39. ^ Ognjenovic, Danica (1981). ""Owen Owen: A major Midlands development"". Retail and Distribution Management. 9 (2): 27–30. doi:10.1108/eb018092.
  40. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  41. ^ Hoad, S (1992). "An Archaeological Evaluation Report on the Site of the former Owen Owen Building, 29-34 George Street, Richmond upon Thames". MOLA (Museum of London Archaeology).
  42. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  43. ^ "Opening night of lost Stourbridge cinema". Black Country Bugle. 11 June 2009. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  44. ^ "Odeon Stourbridge in Stourbridge, GB - Cinema Treasures".
  45. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  46. ^ https://owenowentrust.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/stores-open-close-v3.pdf
  47. ^ "Mander Centre, Wolverhampton, January 1976". flickr. 13 January 1976. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  48. ^ "Retail Groups". Investors' Chronicle and Stock Exchange Gazette. Vol. 14. 1970. p. 1120.
  49. ^ "Paul Wilson: Zellers limps off Centre Mall stage". CBC. 13 September 2012.
  50. ^ "Historical photos: A look back at Robinson department store on James Street South". Hamilton News. 15 July 2019.
  51. ^ "North Shore Publishing". Facebook. Archived from the original on 26 February 2022. Retrieved 3 June 2021.
  52. ^ "Lime Ridge Mall Turns 35". The Spec. 15 September 2016.
  53. ^ Burns, Cathy Jean. ""Perception of Shopping Centers: An Empirical Study" (1980). Theses and Dissertations (Comprehensive)". {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  54. ^ "Registered charity number 233264". Charity Commission. Retrieved 2 May 2018.

Sources Edit

  • David Wyn Davies: Owen Owen: Victorian Draper (Gwasg Cambria, Aberystwyth, 1983) ISBN 0-900439-16-5

External links Edit