Nominated by: Barry Shaw
Where: Deansgate, Manchester
Kendal, Milne & Co can lay claim to being the oldest department store in the country. They trace their origins to a bazaar opened on Deansgate in 1832, bought-up and converted into a drapery emporium by three young store holders: Kendal, Milne and Faulkner. By the 1840s, they also sold haberdashery, carpets, upholstery and furniture, and grew considerably as the old store was rebuilt as part of the improvements made to Deansgate in the 1870s.
A Moorish-style tea room was opened in 1890, by which time the shop was selling a huge range of goods across four floors, connected by elevators and displayed in large plate-glass windows. They also had an extensive mail order business which could take order by telephone and telegram, and a large fleet of delivery vehicles.
Kendal Milne cultivated a reputation for high quality and luxurious goods, placing advertisements in the local press from the 1880s onwards which emphasised the latest novelties and newest fashions, including imports from Paris. In the 1890s, they also advertised ladies riding habits, outfits for cycling, and servants dresses, and at Christmas announced a range of gifts and cards that would be available in time for the ‘Indian, foreign and colonial mail’. Theirs was very much a middle-class clientele.
In 1919, the title ‘Harrods of the North’ became a reality when Kendals was bought by the owners of the Kensington store. A devastating fire ripped through the building in February 1939, but the store quickly reopened with a sale of fire-damaged stock. Whilst business remained good in the post-war period, the economic downturn of the 1970s hit hard and undermined its traditional upmarket clientele. House of Fraser took over in 2005 and the arrival of Selfridges and Harvey Nicholls created real competition. The store is now scheduled for imminent closure.
I worked there from 1978 to 1988 in the furniture department. The store was in 2 buildings with an underpass going under the road, they sold sweets in this and the building opposite was sold in the 80’s which now has mixed retail shops in. The old Kendal Milne is now called House of Fraser and saved recently from closing down. The delivery was at Walter Carter in Rusholme and this was a depository going back to 1800’s. This was used a storage facility right up to the 90’s for furniture. This store was a high end store belonging to the Harrods empire and was split from them in the 80’s.The main store which remains has 6 floors and a basement, the old store across Deansgate had 4 floors and a basement. There is also a high bridge at the back of the store leading to the staff entrance next to the car park.