Pre-Partnership years

Early Trading

The Directors at John Barnes were undoubtedly confident in their brand new department store. First year fees totalled almost £125,000, a whopping figure at that time, equivalent to over well over £10 million today! Sometimes however, business confidence doesn’t cut it. Losses in the first few years were substantial. Profits didn’t surface until 1905, at which point a deficit had to be recovered.

A shake-up in policy of 1907 put John Barnes back on the straight and narrow. By 1911, sales had reached £180,566. And by 1926 and the takeover by the Selfridge Provincial Stores, sales had reached £269,311.

The Takeover by Selfridge Provincial Stores (SPS)

Gordon Selfridge was an American businessman, who at the time of taking over John Barnes, had been head of the well known store Selfridges of London for ten years. Selfridge turned John Barnes into one of his Provincial stores, part of Selfridge Provincial Stores Limited, created in 1926.

Selfridge updates John Barnes

Under Selfridge’s directorship, sales figures continued to rise. The arguably backward aspects of retailing were shelved; for example employees no longer lived above the shop. In fact, in 1935 the store was rebuilt, to provide it with the look that it retained up until its closure in 1981. Three floors were now given over to retailing. Above these floors, five floors of flats were built in a project known as St James Court. Over half the 92 tenants in the flats would become Partners. One flat would also house the Chairman of the John Lewis Partnership.

A drawing of the rebuilt John Barnes, complete with residential flats above the store

Always prominent in the public eye, it was a well documented post-marital scandal that would eventually contribute to the downfall of the Selfridge Provincial Stores, and the subsequent takeover of John Barnes and others by the John Lewis Partnership in 1940.

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