World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article


Industry Department Store
Fate Lease unable to be renewed,
Brand bought out,
Grotto Re-Opened
Founded Liverpool, 1856 (1856)
Founder David Lewis
Defunct 29 May 2010 (2010-05-29)
Headquarters Liverpool, England
Key people
David Thompson
Sir Philip Green
David Lewis
Louis Cohen
Rex Cohen
Lord Woolton
Parent Vergo Retail
Lewis's Department Store, Liverpool
Former Lewis's Department Store, Market Street, Manchester (as Primark, in 2008)

Lewis's was a chain of British department stores that operated from 1856 to 1991, when the company went into administration. The first store, which opened in Liverpool city centre, became the flagship of the chain of stores operating under the Lewis's name. Several stores in the chain were bought in 1991 by the company Owen Owen and continued to operate under the Lewis's brand name for several years but after the closure of the Manchester store in 2002, only the original Liverpool store continued to trade under the Lewis's name. This store was sold in 2007 to the Vergo Retail Ltd and closed in 2010.


  • History 1
    • Christmas grotto 1.1
    • Decline 1.2
  • Near Rebirth 2
  • Former Branches 3
  • Sculpture 4
  • Lewis's Bank 5
  • Lewis's Bank under Martins' ownership 6
  • Popular culture 7
  • See also 8
  • References 9
  • Further reading 10
  • External links 11


The first Lewis's was opened in 1856 in Liverpool by entrepreneur David Lewis, as a men's and boys' clothing store, mostly manufacturing his own stock. In 1864 Lewis's branched out into women's clothing. In the 1870s the store expanded and added departments, including shoes in 1874 and tobacco in 1879. Also in 1879, Lewis's opened one of the world's first "Christmas grottoes" in Lewis's Bon Marché, Church Street, Liverpool. It was named "Christmas Fairyland".His motto was 'Friends of the People’ and he intended the shopping experience to be inclusive.[1]

The first Lewis's outside Liverpool opened in nearby Manchester in 1877, and another, by personal suggestion from Joseph Chamberlain on his new Corporation Street in Birmingham in 1885. The Manchester store included a full scale ballroom on the fifth floor, which was also used for exhibitions. Buying offices were also located on the fifth floor until a takeover by Liverpool-based competitor Owen Owen (see below). A fourth store opened in Sheffield in 1884 but proved unprofitable and closed in 1888.

Louis Cohen took over the business after Lewis's death, and oversaw a period of consolidation. After Louis Cohen's death, control passed to Harold and Rex Cohen, who took the company public in 1924. New stores were once again opened, in Glasgow (1929), Leeds (1932), Hanley in Stoke-on-Trent (1934) and Leicester (1936). Lewis's were generally among the largest department stores in their respective localities.

In 1951 the Lewis's group purchased the famous London department store Selfridges[2] and in 1965 became part of the Sears Group headed by Charles Clore. In 1966 the group launched Miss Selfridge Fashions, which would later become a store chain in its own right.

A branch was opened on Blackpool promenade, next to Blackpool Tower, in 1964 on the site of the Alhambra. The building had a distinctive 1960s design, with a turquoise tiled exterior. After it closed in 1993, building work was undertaken to remove some of the upper floors and the redeveloped site housed a Mecca bingo hall, with part of the ground floor space being subsequently occupied by Woolworths Group, now Poundland, Harry Ramsden's and a variety of smaller retail units.

Christmas grotto

The world's first Christmas grotto opened in Lewis's in 1879, entitled "Christmas Fairyland". A staple of Liverpool's festive season, many generations first visited Father Christmas here, with the final displays covering over 10,000 square feet (930 m2). Since Christmas 2010, the Lewis's grotto manager, display team and staff moved the Lewis's Christmas Grotto to the 4th Floor of Rapid Hardware, in the former George Henry Lee (John Lewis) building.


The company went into administration in 1991 as a result of a combination of problems, including the recession and failing to compete effectively. This resulted in Liverpool competitor Owen Owen buying up several branches of Lewis's (but retaining the Lewis's brand name on those purchased stores). Sir Philip Green revived the selling of toys on a large scale, by launching the brand Kids HQ in four Lewis's Owen Owen Stores, including those in Liverpool and Manchester. The Leicester branch traded independently for a short while, following a management buyout, as "Lewis's of Leicester", before eventually closing. Other branches including the Birmingham store closed down.

After the 1996 Manchester bombing by the Provisional Irish Republican Army in Manchester, trading space in Lewis's was rented to Marks & Spencer and other smaller retailers displaced following heavy damage to the Corn Exchange. Both Marks & Spencer and the small retailers moved into new accommodation in 1999. The store suffered from a smaller footfall thereafter, and attempted to fight back by reinventing itself as partially a "discount retailer". In a final attempt to arrest the decline, the remainder-clothing retailer TK Maxx was invited to trade from the basement floor. In 2002, the Manchester branch ceased trading; it is now occupied by a branch of Primark.

The last store to trade as Lewis's was the Liverpool original. This followed the sale of other branches of Lewis's from Owen Owen to other operators such as Debenhams and Allders during the 1990s.

On 28 February 2007 the Liverpool store went into liquidation.[3] On 23 March 2007 it was sold as a going concern to Vergo Retail Ltd, enabling the store to continue to trade as Lewis's.[4] In February 2010 it was announced that the store would close permanently in June 2010 as the lease could not be renewed.[5] The final day of trading was 29 May 2010.[6] Until closure, the building retained its original lifts which had no controls for shoppers, instead everything was controlled by a lift operator who worked from a fold-down seating platform next to a lever.

Near Rebirth

After Vergo Retail went into administration, the rights to the Lewis's name were bought by Lewis's Home Retail Ltd. They intended to open a home store in Bury later this year and have since bought out 6 branches of TJ Hughes. Including the Liverpool branch, which was ironically also the first branch of Owen Owen. They have also set up a website. However a planning application has been submitted to Bury Council confirming that the company do not wish to relaunch this classic brand and have decided to make this store a TJ Hughes instead.

Former Branches

  • Liverpool (1856–2010) To become a Lidl in 2015 (Liverpool Echo 2/11/14)
  • Manchester (1877–2002) Now home to Primark.
  • Hanley, Stoke-on-Trent (1934–1998) Debenhams since 1998.
  • Leeds (1932–1996) Became an Allders now home to Sainsburys.
  • Oxford (1957–1996), subsequently Allders and now Primark
  • Blackpool (1964–1993) Became Mecca Bingo and Woolworths.
  • Bristol (1958–1981) Bought by John Lewis. Since occupied by Bentalls, House of Fraser and now home to Primark.
  • Birmingham (1885–1991) Now home to offices, shops and restaurants.
  • London (Selfridges)
  • Newcastle (1985–87) Replaced by Hamleys, then Mark One and HMV. Now Forever21.
  • Glasgow (1929–1990s) Now Debenhams.
  • Leicester (1936–1993) Demolished.
  • Sheffield (1884–1888)
  • Weston Favell (Supa-Centre)(1975–1985)
  • Ellesmere Port (Supa-Centre)
  • Planned to open store in Cheadle (ref. Tale of two Cities by K Evans, P Fraser & I Taylor)


Liverpool Resurgent (1956) by Jacob Epstein

Above the main entrance to the Liverpool flagship store is a statue of a nude man by Sir Jacob Epstein. Its official title is Liverpool Resurgent but is nicknamed locally as either "Nobby Lewis or Dickie Lewis". The statue was unveiled for Lewis's Centenary celebrations in 1956 which came as the blitzed store had completed rebuilding. It is a well-known local meeting place and was immortalised in the 1962 anthemic song "In My Liverpool Home" by Peter McGovern:

"We speak with an accent exceedingly rare,
Meet under a statue exceedingly bare"

Lewis's Bank

From 1928 Lewis's included a banking department in each store. It was incorporated as a subsidiary limited company in 1934 and was owned by Martins Bank from 1958 to 1967 when it was bought by Lloyds Bank. It continued to operate into the 1980s.[7]

Lewis's Bank under Martins' ownership

Details of the nine year ownership 1958 - 1967 of Lewis's Bank by Martins Bank are published within Martins Bank Archive at . Lewis's retained its name and operated as a separate entity to Martins throughout. In addition to a general history, the Archive has separate pages which cover each of the ten branches of Lewis's in existence at that time, illustrated with stories and pictures from visits made to them by Martins Bank Magazine. Each Branch page also has a gallery of some of the staff who worked there. There is also a page to which former Lewis's Bank staff from this period can see and share memories. Martins Bank Archive maintains a Lewis's Bank staff database covering the nine years, and family tree researchers can enquire about New Entrants, Transferred and/or Promoted Staff, Marriages, Retirements and Deaths.

Popular culture

  • The store gave rise to the well-known phrase "Standing there like one of Lewis's", referring to the wax mannequins placed in windows in the 1920s, some of the first in the north-west of England. It has also been described as being due to idle staff, the statues by Jacob Epstein (The Liverpool Resurgent) at the Liverpool branch and The Man of Fire at the Hanley branch or the reputation of the Lewis's Arcade at the Manchester store (As popularised in the 1960 film: Hell is a City)

The 1990 claymation of Terry Pratchett's Truckers has short interior scenes shot at the Manchester branch of Lewis's, as appears in the credits.

See also


  1. ^ "Lewis' the shop that time forgot - Daily Telegraph p.17 Mar 2011". Retrieved 23 Dec 2014. 
  2. ^ "Lewis's". The Liverpool Wiki. Retrieved 20 July 2013. 
  3. ^ "Lewis's bosses call in receivers". BBC News. 28 February 2007. 
  4. ^ "Jobs saved as iconic store sold". BBC News. 22 May 2007. 
  5. ^ "Lewis's legacy of 154 years trade". BBC News. 22 February 2010. 
  6. ^ John Siddle (29 May 2010). "Liverpool department store Lewis's closes its doors today". Liverpool Echo. 
  7. ^ "Lewis's Bank Limited". Martins Bank. Retrieved 2 October 2010. 

Further reading

  • Briggs, Asa (1956). The Friends of the People: the centenary history of Lewis's.
  • Lewis's Directory for the Towns of Manchester and Salford for the Year 1788. Manchester: Lewis's, [188-?] (Text of Edmond Holme's original directory republished with map of Old Manchester and Salford. pp. 47–65 contain "A description of Manchester" (written for this edition). pp. 66–72 contain "Lewis's": extract from a letter from Mr. Ike Halky to Mr. Hugh Bett, and the back wrapper advt. for Lewis's and view of the store (at 106-122 Market Street). The map reproduces one showing the two towns ca. 1794. British Library catalogue dates as [1880?] which is perhaps too early: Lewis's Manchester store was established in 1877, having been founded in Liverpool in 1856.)

External links

  • New Lewis's Home Store Website
  • Lewis's Famous Christmas Grotto at Rapid, Liverpool
  • 5th Floor project
  • (
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.