Allders is an independent department store in Croydon, Surrey, England. The store was established by Joshua Allder in 1862. It is currently the fourth largest department store in the United Kingdom.
The Croydon store was once the flagship of a large chain of department stores operating in the UK. The chain went into administration in 2005 and was subsequently broken up and sold off, the Croydon store being purchased by Harold Tillman, owner of the Jaeger clothing company.

Joshua Allder

Allders, was opened in 1862 at 102 and 103 North End, central Croydon, as a 'linen draper and silk mercer' by Joshua Allder (1838–1904) from Walworth who had served his apprenticeship in Croydon. His shop was diverse, with special offers on silk dresses but also a mourning dress section, and departments offering lower-cost items such as buttons and ribbons. This diversity showed a shrewdness in business and an understanding of his mostly female customers.

Croydon was a growing town, and Allder's business grew with it. It was not long before the shop expanded into 104, 106 and 107 North End - he had to wait for some twenty years to take 105, a bakery. The wealth Allder made allowed him to play a prominent part in the local community, on the Local Board of Health, on the council of the County Borough of Croydon for nine years and in the non-conformist church community. He supported greater rights for his workers, being instrumental in getting local stores closed for a half-day on Wednesdays. Joshua Allder died in 1904 leaving a store which had already expanded beyond clothing and haberdashery to sell glass and porcelain, for example.

His main residence in Pampisford Road, South Croydon, now houses Regina Coeli RC school, and two cul-de-sacs nearby were named Allder Way, and Joshua Close.

Growth and decline

In 1908, Allder's family sold the business to J.W. Holdron and F.C. Bearman, owners of stores in Peckham and Leytonstone, respectively. They developed the store into fifty departments with 500 staff and owned the business until 1921. It then passed to the Lawrence family, under whose control it became a limited company. In 1926, the famous North End facade was created, uniting the frontage of the premises for the first time. In 1932, the Arcade from North End to George Street was completed, which proved very popular with its varied concessions, a herald of shopping malls of the future. Allders was considered a pioneering retailer.

The building suffered considerable damage in World War II but never closed. The refurbishment saw improvements, including the takeover of a cinema auditorium as the gift department and Croydon's first escalators in 1954. By 1958, however, the Lawrence family were forced to sell as a result of death duties incurred after the death of Daniel Arthur Lawrence, managing director. The store was acquired by Jack & Bernard Lyons' United Drapery Stores, owners of Richard Shops, John Collier, Alexandre Tailors and several department stores. The son of D.A Lawrence, S John Lawrence was kept on by UDS as MD. Allders continued to expand, reaching a £1 million turnover in 1958 and £3 million by 1963. Fashion's importance declined, with household items taking a greater role.

In the 1960s, there was considerable change in Croydon, particularly the construction of the Whitgift Centre to the north side of Allders (into which the store expanded) and the creation of the St George's Walk development. Transport and lifestyle changes, however, led to greater competition with the West End and further improvements were required to modernise the store. The section of the store fronting George Street was rebuilt and expanded, retaining a Victorian facade, alongside a new addition. Rebuilding works continued into Dingwall Avenue and by 1976, Allders had 1,700 staff and 500,000 square feet (46,000 m²) of floor space. It was a Croydon landmark and the fourth largest department store in the UK after Harrods, Selfridges and John Lewis in Oxford Street [] . It boasted the largest Carpet Department in Europe amongst other claims. Croydon was by this time a major retail centre.

Allders immediate competitor, Kennards, was renamed Debenhams in 1973 (along with many other Debenhams stores). To compete with the central buying and advertising of Debenhams, and other larger groups, the department stores owned by UDS were all gradually renamed 'Allders'. This process began with the renaming of Shinners of Sutton in 1979 and later included Hinds of Eltham, Medhursts of Bromley, Pages of Camberley, Willis Ludlow of Hull and Landport Drapery Bazaar (LDB) in Portsmouth. Only Arding & Hobbs at Clapham Junction in London and the furnishing store of Clover at Kirkstall in Leeds retained their original identities. A new geometric logo of ten orange 'A's arranged in a circle on brown and cream coloured stationery, bags and carpets appeared across the group together with the phrase 'All that a great store should be'.

In 1983, the Lyons family sold the UDS Group to Hanson plc and Allders became a flagship company of the group, with Lord Hanson appearing on Allders' roof in TV adverts. During this time, Allders expanded with new stores opening in Basildon and Chatham and in many international airports as duty-free concessions. A new 'Fourth Floor' was built on the roof of the Croydon store to house a new Audio and Television Department and two new restaurants as well as a link into the staff areas of London House on Dingwall Avenue. The group's brown, cream and orange livery was replaced with a scheme of light blue and gold lettering on a dark blue background.

In 1989, a management buyout saw the international arm spun off as a separate company. There was continued upheaval in Croydon with the complete refurbishment of the Whitgift Centre and of parts of Allders flagship store. The vast carpet department was contracted to a secondary location allowing for the creation of a new perfumery and cosmetics hall at the centre of the Ground Floor. A new Allders department store of 137,000 square feet opened at Woking in 1992. Allders plc was floated on the stock market in 1993.

The growth of the group rapidly accelerated following stock market flotation with the acquisition of existing stores and the building of new ones. This began with the acquisition of Nottingham department store 'Farmers' (renamed Allders) and the development of a chain of stand-alone home furnishing stores. The opening of a second Clover store at Rotherham was succeeded by the development of 'Allders At Home', a concept for new stores opened in out-of-town retail parks- the first of which opened at Aylesford in Kent in 1994. The Clover stores were both rebranded under this fascia.

In September 1996 Allders purchased a number of department stores from the Owen Owen group that previously traded under the Lewis's and Owen Owen names. This included branches in Basingstoke, Coventry, Ilford, Leeds, Oxford, Redditch and Slough.In 1997 Allders acquired the bankrupt Maples furniture brand and seven of its retail outlets. These stores were integrated into the Allders At Home portfolio and brought the brand to town centre locations in Bromley, Chelmsford, Crawley, Kingston upon Thames, Reading, Sutton Coldfield and Watford. The Bromley outlet, placed in direct competition with the town's main Allders department store, was soon disposed of. The Kingston store, offering a range focussed solely on furniture, beds and carpets struggled to compete with Bentalls and John Lewis. This competition in the town, as well as the frontage of the store being obscured for some time whilst work on the Kingston Bridge was carried out, led to the store's closure within two years. A second Kingston store was later opened in the former C & A building offering a broader range of merchandise for the home.

Shares in Allders crashed in 1998 after disappointing sales and difficulties integrating the Maples furniture group. Nevertheless it continued a policy of expansion, acquiring the premises of the former C & A stores at Guildford, Kingston upon Thames, Leicester and York in 2000 and later the large C & A building on the south side of Oxford Street in London. Problems continued however. In Croydon, there were plans to build a new shopping centre, Park Place, on the store's current site and much of the area to the south. A new Allders would be built opposite Croydon's Town Hall. Croydon Council's partner in this plan was developer Minerva plc. In late 2002, Minerva was part of a new group called Scarlett Retail that bid for Allders, with Lehman Brothers investment bank and a management team including Terry Green, the former chief executive of Debenhams and BHS. There had also been rumours of a merger with House of Fraser or a combined bid from Allders shareholder Tom Hunter.

Some felt at the time that Scarlett's bid was based on Minerva's intention to acquire Allders' top site in Croydon for its Park Place project, in order to then sell the plot on to another retailer, probably John Lewis. The bid was felt by many to be overpriced. Nevertheless, Scarlett paid Tom Hunter an improved price and they landed the company in early 2003 for about £162m ($316m). Green became chief executive and set about an overhaul of Allders' image. Much of the traditional homeware, haberdashery and clothing for middle-aged, middle-income women was reduced, with a new emphasis on young fashion and beauty products.


In September 2004, Minerva announced that Allders had made a loss of £22.6m for the year to 30 June 2004 [] , blaming the speed of the transformation of the business. In December, it announced the business was up for sale. There was some early interest that Primark was to purchase some of the stores [] however, no interest was found in taking on the company as a whole and it was placed in administration on 26 January 2005. It was revealed that there was a pensions deficit of £15 million. 130 of the staff at the Croydon headquarters were laid off, including Green and other senior managers. An under construction Allders store being developed as part of the Drake Circus shopping centre in Plymouth was never opened and had since been split into stores for Next and Primark when the centre opened in October 2005.

Kroll, the administrators, once again searched for buyers for the chain or individual stores. Of Allders' 45 stores, only 35 received offers, with rival retailers such as House of Fraser, Bhs, Debenhams and Primark said to have expressed an interest. The ten remaining stores, including the Oxford Street branch, began closing-down sales on 5 February and had started to close from March 2005 and all had closed down by May 2005 with the Leeds store being the last to close down on 22 May 2005 (with exception of the Croydon store). []


In May 2005, it was announced that the owners of Jaeger would take on the flagship Croydon store and that it would continue to trade as Allders. In the first year of operation the new Managing Director Andrew MacKenzie has turned the fortunes of the company around and has projected a £1Million gross profit for the first year. Significant investment has been made to attract back to the store its Croydon audience. It is now the only Allders still in existence.

Development threat

In April 2006, it was announced that Allders had secured an extension to their lease through to 2008 as reported in the "Croydon Guardian": [ Allders safe for two years] safeguarding the jobs of almost 1,000 employees.

The land and store that Allders lease has regular break clauses to the benefit of the 'virtual freehold leaseholder' held by Minerva subsidiary companies for 250 years. The freehold interest is held by the Croydon Whitgift Foundation, following a deal in the lead up to the Compulsory Purchase Order with Minerva to ensure their long term financial interests (they were founded in the late 16th Century).

The council has a current, unamended development agreement with Minerva for a two phase development. First phase south of George Street, Second phase north of George street. At the time that the former Allders chain went into administration Minerva announced that the development was to be in a single phase that includes demolition of the current Allders store and a 5 year wait until the new development is completed. This would be untenable for Allders. The development agreement between Croydon Council and Minerva is based on a two phase development enabling Allders to stay on site until their new store was completed and fitted out. The new Conservative administration (elected May 2006) of Croydon Council is intent on securing John Lewis as the anchor tenant. This however does not fit in with the development as granted because John Lewis do not require a department store of the size that has to be built by Minerva.

Two options therefore exist for Minerva 1) they put a new planning application in for a smaller development with a store suitable for John Lewis 2) they negotiate with Allders of Croydon to anchor the new development as originally envisaged. It is thought that Minerva are particularly worried about scenario 1) since their share price is based on the large development already granted with planning permission - any new application would also take at least a year to work through the system and so delay the development significantly. Croydon Council have stated publicly that they are not in discussions with Minerva on a new planning application. They have also stated that the development agreement has not been amended in any way.

Minerva has a development agreement of its own with Lend Lease to develop the project subject to securing an anchor department store.

The overall viability of the Minerva plans (1.08 Million Sq.Ft Shopping Centre) have been thrown into doubt following the building of the 1.615 Million Sq.Ft Westfield London shopping centre development in west London (white city) due to open late next year (2008) and the existing 1.6 Million Sq.Ft shopping development at Bluewater to the east of London.


* "Memories of Croydon" (1999), various authors, ISBN 1-900463-19-9.

External links

* [ Official website]

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