Chairman Peter Staples opened the meeting by announcing four apologies. An apology had been received from St. Michael’s Hospice with regard to their misdirection of an acknowledgement following our Christmas donation. Roy Smith (Treasurer) suggested a link with Bilton Men’s Forum to allow members the benefits of sampling their respective meetings.
Today’s Speaker was Mr Brian Greenwood whose talk topic was ” Shop Talk: A Short History Of Retailing”. Brian formerly ran the Greenwood menswear shops which at its height consisted of 300 branches from Dumfries to Torquay. His experience made him the ideal person to deliver his topic and he advised of the gradual development of shops over the years which began with peasants who sold goods in the local market deciding that they needed secure and weatherproof storage to avoid taking their goods home every night. Some eighteenth century shop fronts with tiny panes of glass still survive in London where Debenhams opened in 1778. The first department store was the Cast Iron Palace in New York in 1846. The largest store in Britain is Harrod’s with one million sq.ft. of floor space, the equivalent of 1000 standard size shops. Macy’s in New York was the largest store in the world for many years (2.7 million sq.ft.) but was overtaken by a store in South Korea (5.5 million sq.ft.) in 2009. These mega stores could only develop with the introduction of lifts and escalators in the 1890’s. A nurse with brandy stood by to reassure nervous ladies making their first journey on an escalator!!
Brian then spoke about other store types–multiples like Boots and Smiths; long-lost men’s outfitters like Horne Brothers and the 50 shilling tailor; variety stores like Marks and Spencer which went more upmarket after the war; supermarkets; shopping malls and mail order, finishing with the amazing growth of Amazon.
Audience interest was displayed by the five or six questions raised by members and whilst Brian mentioned the adverse trading conditions in the early 1990s which affected his business his sales prowess was still in evidence as he promoted his book “Use it or Lose it” to encourage mental and physical activity and increase life expectancy in old age.
The Vote Of Thanks was given by John Taylor on behalf of the 37 attendees.
JOHN TAYLOR PROGRAMME SECRETARY