Randalls' Gentlemens' Outfitters, Newark

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Former location of Randalls' shop in Imperial Buildings and at No.3 Appletongate

Years of trade makes a mark

By Tim Warner

The business was begun by Mr Ernest Thomas Hall Randall in a small lock-up in Imperial Buildings on Baldertongate. The official opening took place on Wednesday, June 18, 1902, a date recorded by an announcement he placed in the Newark Advertiser on that day offering gents’ made-to-measure suits at 35s and trousers at 10s 6d.

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Born in 1878 Ernest Randall was the son of Mr and Mrs William Randall who ran the Newark Arms pub in George Street . From an early age it is said that Ernest was fired with the ambition and determination to succeed – characteristics which, by the 1940s, had led him to create one of Newark’s most successful businesses and to receive the highest civic honours that the town could bestow.

After leaving school at 14, and following a brief spell in a lawyer’s office, Mr Randall began his working life as an apprentice clothier at A.M. Matthews’ shop on the corner of Newark Market Place and Bridge Street (where the HSBC Bank now stands).

The hours were long – from eight in the morning until eight at night, and even to 11pm on Saturdays – for only 3s 6d take home pay each week. After five years’ training he secured a job as an assistant at a shop in Preston , Lancashire , and from there moved to a similar position in Cardiff .

In 1902, aged 24, he returned to Newark with the intention of starting his own business which, with the aid of a loan of £200 from his mother, he achieved, acquiring premises in Baldertongate and engaging an errand boy as an assistant.

Randalls came to be known as one of the most up-to-date outfitters stores in the Midlands , and from employing a single errand boy in 1902, by the mid-1930s, had expanded to include 15 shop assistants and ten tailors.

In that decade, too, Mr Randall was joined in the business by his two sons, Reg and James, the former having trained at Harrods, the latter at Simpson’s of Piccadilly in London .

In 1954 two grocery shops occupying the Baldertongate and Barnbygate corners of Imperial Buildings were taken over and incorporated into Randalls’ shop. This enabled them to construct an uninterrupted sweep of no fewer than 22 display windows along the three main sides of Imperial Buildings.

Innovations inside the store meanwhile included the installation of what was described as “the newest tubes in fluorescent lighting… (which) provide the nearest approach to daylight and enhance the true colour. A new cork floor treated with plastic has (also) been installed which ensures easy walking for the customer and is very durable.” 

The overall concept was to convert the shop into a completely open plan “walk-round store” (a very modern idea in those days).  This ambition was finally achieved in 1960 by the construction of an entirely new mezzanine floor inside Imperial Buildings which, at a stroke doubled the amount of retail floorspace by creating a new suite of first floor sales departments above the original street level shop.

Despite such developments the 1960s proved a difficult time for the enlarged Randalls store and as the decade came to a close Imperial Buildings was sold and the business moved across the street to No 3 Appletongate.


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This page was added by Tim Warner on 03/12/2010.
Comments about this page

A M Matthews, where he was apprenticed, was Anne Maria Matthews, the widow of Thomas Matthews who had established the shop in the 1840s. She was assisted by two of her sons. One of her sons established branches at Southwell, Mansfield and Ilkeston. The company appears to have ceased trading during the 1st world war.

By John Matthews
On 03/04/2018

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