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British Industrial History

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Sears plc was a large British-based conglomerate. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index.

1891 The business was founded by John and William Sears in 1891 and initially traded as bootmakers under the product name of Trueform.

1929 J Sears and Co (True-Form Boot Co) acquired Freeman, Hardy and Willis.

1953 J Sears and Co (True-Form Boot Co) was acquired by Charles Clore. The business was entirely dependent on the footwear trade for its profits.

1954 Acquired Haverton Holdings, which owned Furness Shipbuilding Co and controlled Bentley Engineering Co as well as other subsidiaries[1]

1955 The name of the group was to be changed to Sears Holdings at the Annual meeting. The footwear interests of the group had been concentrated in Freeman, Hardy and Willis.[2]

1955 Acquired the Phillips Brothers Character Shoes footwear business

1955 Acquired the whole of the outstanding shares in Bentley Engineering Group; other companies in the group concerned with manufacturing knitting machines were Wildt Mellor Bromley and Cotton. The Furness Group had substantial business but was the smallest source of profits in Sears[3]

1956 Acquired Parmeko, maker of transformers which was a new area of diversification for the Group [4]

1956 Acquired Scottish Motor Traction Co[5]. Acquired Manfield and Sons[6], including the Manfield shoe shops; acquired Dolcis shoe shop chains.[7]

1956 Clore consolidated all the shoe brands that Sears had acquired under the name British Shoe Corporation[8]

1957 Acquired Shaw and Kilburn[9]

1958 Amongst the "Other industries" part of the group were Shaw and McInnes; acquired Peter Johnston and Co (South Shields) Ltd, fabricators; also owned Alexander Findlay, structural steelworks producer [10]

1959 Acquired Mappin and Webb[11] and Garrard and Co[12]

1960 Floated preferences shares in the main parts of the group as British Shoe Corporation Ltd and Sears Engineering Ltd, both of which were subsidiaries of Sears Holdings [13]

1962 Acquired Saxone, Lilley and Skinner, another shoe shop chain through British Shoe Corporation.

1965 Sears decided to invest in department stores, acquiring Lewis's Investment Trust which itself controlled Selfridges.

1966 Selfridges launched the Miss Selfridge department, which subsequently expanded to a store chain in its own right.

1966 Sears transferred Scottish Motor Traction Co, including Shaw and Kilburn, to Sears Engineering; Furness Shipbuilding Co was transferred to Sears Holdings[14]

1967 Sears had disposed of its shipbuilding activities[15].

1971 The company diversified again buying William Hill, a chain of bookmakers.

1980 The company bought Wallis

1985 Acquired Foster Brothers Clothing Co, which owned Adams Childrenswear

1985 renamed Sears plc.

1992 Acquired Richard Shops.

The company was FTSE 100 listed and had the following brands:

Wallis, Warehouse, Miss Selfridge, Adams Childrenswear, Shoe Express, Shoe City, Saxone, Dolcis, Cable & Co, The Outfit, Lilley & Skinner, Freemans Catalogue Store, Selfridges, The Selfridges Hotel, part ownership of The St Enoch's Shopping Centre in Glasgow, 3,000 retail shops being mostly leasehold with a few freehold jewels such as 190 Oxford Street and 330 Oxford Street known as the Top Shop flagship store.

1996 Sears sold FHM, Manfield, True Form, Saxone and Curtess to entrepreneur Stephen Hinchliffe and his business Facia. The remaining parts of British Shoe Corporation were sold by 1998, at an accounting loss of £150 million.

1999 Sears plc was acquired by January Investments on behalf of Philip Green in January. The womenswear business (comprising Warehouse, Richards, Wallis and Miss Selfridge) was subsequently transferred to Arcadia Group.

Philip Green later purchased the Arcadia Group, regaining control of Wallis and Miss Selfridge alongside Arcadia's other brands (Arcadia having closed Richards, and sold Warehouse to Rubicon Retail).

See Also


Sources of Information

  1. The Times, Sep 15
  2. The Times, Saturday, Oct 16, 1954
  3. The Times, May 16, 1956
  4. The Times, February 28, 1956
  5. The Times, Jun 16, 1956
  6. The Times Aug 28, 1956
  7. The Times, Sep 22, 1956
  8. The Times, Oct 03, 1956
  9. The Times , Feb 12, 1957
  10. The Times, May 13, 1958
  11. The Times, Aug 26, 1959
  12. The Times, Oct 24, 1959
  13. The Times, Sep 09, 1960
  14. The Times, Aug 29, 1966
  15. The Times May 04, 1967