Purchasing Peter Jones in 1905

Photo:An artist's impression of what Oxford Street may have looked like in 1864

An artist's impression of what Oxford Street may have looked like in 1864

Photo:The first known image of the John Lewis exterior on Oxford Street, 1885

The first known image of the John Lewis exterior on Oxford Street, 1885

Growing the business beyond Oxford Street

By Jonathan Blatchford

The early shop

John Lewis’ business in Oxford Street flourished, and a reputation built on honesty, service and value was rapidly established. Despite this, Mr Lewis was heavily Victorian in attitude and in method. Working hours at the shop were long, and workers operated in poor conditions, and often for little money. Mr Lewis himself was well known for his dictatorial method of management, his short temper leading to more than one arbitrary dismissal. In fact, it was his methods of management that would ultimately encourage his son John Spedan Lewis to push for change that would eventually culminate in the John Lewis Partnership.

Expanding family

In the 1880’s following a period of expansion and growth that included acquiring property on Holles Street, Mr Lewis rebuilt the shop into a fully fledged department store. It was around this time in 1884, that John Lewis married Eliza Baker. Together they had two sons, John Spedan and Oswald, born in 1885 and 1887 respectively.

Meanwhile, across London...

Meanwhile, in Sloane Square, another department store by the name of Peter Jones was building up his own reputation. Having opened in 1877, the shop had grown drastically, and equally, Jones was well known as a fair and good employer. Jones died in 1905, and John Lewis made it his mission to purchase the department store. It is well known that in December of that year, Mr Lewis walked to Sloane Square with 20 £1000 notes in his pocket, and purchased the store there and then!

This page was added by Jonathan Blatchford on 01/09/2014.

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