The twentieth century, pre-Partnership

Photo:Caley's exterior, 1915-1920

Caley's exterior, 1915-1920

By Jonathan Blatchford

Royal warrants amass, numbers decline

The early 20th century was a continued period of growth for Caleys, still benefitting greatly from its Royal customers. In 1903, Madame Caley started her own business in Piccadilly, London. Based in Albemarle Street, principally advertised as a ‘Dressmakers’, the business went from start-up to over fifty employees in only four years. But when the lease for the building ran out in 1911, it was not renewed. This was perhaps the first sign that all was not entirely well. 1910 can be considered the most prosperous of Caleys early years. The family business was made into a private company, with a capital of over £40,000. Expansion had also occurred; 25 High Street was turned into a new department. The list of Royal Warrants was still growing.

With the arrival of the First World War came the growing desire for ready-to-wear clothing. This instigated a dramatic decline in fortunes for Caleys.

Takeover by Gordon Selfridge

Gordon Selfridge was an American businessmen, who at the time of taking over Caleys, had been head of the well known store ‘Selfridges’ of London for ten years. The exclusivities of Caleys, were abruptly replaced by a whirlwind of American swagger, as the shop became one of ‘Selfridge Provincial Stores Limited’, created in 1926. Public displays of drama, flair and pomposity suddenly became the order of the day, encapsulated in no better way than by this picture of Selfridge boarding his aeroplane to London. For the first time in over 100 years, there was no Caley connected with the firm.

The imminent arrival of the Second World War, and Selfridge’s desire to return to America, signalled the end of the Selfridge Provincial Stores, and the subsequent takeover of Caleys and others by the John Lewis Partnership in 1940.

This page was added by Jonathan Blatchford on 18/08/2014.