Company name: D H Evans & Co Ltd
Dates in business: 1894-1987
Type of business: department store
Type of company: Limited liability company 1894Locations:
In April 1894, having traded successfully for fifteen years as D H Evans, Dan Harries Evans announced the creation of a limited liability company, D H Evans & Co Ltd. The new company had a capital of GBP202,000. Evans retained a majority holding and the remaining shares, offered to staff and customers, were subscribed several times over. Alfred James Newton, chairman of Harrod's Stores Ltd, department store, Knightsbridge, London, was appointed chairman of the new company, assisted by James Bailey, James Boyton, and Richard Burbidge, who were later joined by Edgar Cohen and William Mendel as directors. Evans was appointed managing director, at a salary of GBP750 per annum, and attended board meetings as an observer.
During the following year the directors consolidated and extended control over the store's site by acquiring 296-306 Oxford Street in 1894/95 and number 308 in 1898. In 1897, Evans resigned as managing director but remained on the board, and Richard Burbidge assumed an executive role until a successor could be found. Since Burbidge was managing director of Harrod's Stores Ltd it was not surprising that he proposed one of his own managers from Knightsbridge, Ernest Webb, as Evans's replacement. Burbidge was also convinced of the value of advertising and devised a major promotional campaign in December 1898. A few months later he retired from the board in order to concentrate on his growing responsibilities at Harrod's Stores Ltd.
In December 1904, the company acquired the premises and goodwill of James Goodman of 310 Oxford Street. Later, in June 1906, the leasehold property and stock of Arthur Saunders were also purchased and the premises at 3 Chapel Place rebuilt. By mid-1906, plans were in hand for the erection of new buildings to replace the collection of shops on the west side of Old Cavendish Street. By the end of the year, John Murray, architect, had produced designs for a five-storey building at 308-320 Oxford Street. In March 1907, the board announced its intention to finance the expansion by the issue of 40,000 GBP1 ordinary shares at a GBP2 premium. The list opened in April and was subscribed twice over. Further share issues were made in 1909 and in 1910. The rebuilt D H Evans store with its fašade of Italian marble cost in excess of GBP131,000. The showrooms extended to the first floor with general drapery on the ground floor and ladies' mantles, jackets, costumes and millinery above. Curtains, rugs, china, glass, novelties and stationery were available in the basement. In 1913, Evans Lease Trust Ltd was created to take advantage of an opportunity to acquire a 999-year lease on the east and west blocks.
In January 1915, D H Evans retired from the business and was succeeded by Ernest Webb's son, William Wallace Webb. By this time the founders' shares had become an obstacle to the raising of sufficient capital. Aware of the need to take advantage of the expected post-war boom, a scheme was devised in 1918 to convert the founders' shares to ordinary shares by means of a private parliamentary bill. Profits which had been depressed during the war peaked at GBP169,280 in 1919, a level which was not reached again until 1946. In 1921, Newton, the company's chairman, died and was replaced by Ernest Webb. During 1923, the company acquired the freehold of much of the west block and built showrooms to the rear in Chapel Street. However, by the late 1920s, it had become clear that the company lacked both sufficient capital to fund further expansion and the innovative leadership of its earlier years. Under such circumstances, and, in the light of the long-established personal links between the two firms, when Harrods Ltd (previously Harrod's Stores Ltd) proposed merger in 1928, its approaches were welcomed. Harrods Ltd acquired the entire ordinary share capital, Woodman Burbidge became chairman and Frank Chitham, a Harrods director, also joined the board. William Webb became managing director and C H Bromhead, who had joined the company the previous year, became general manager.
Woodman Burbidge was aware of the problems of trading in two buildings and determined to consolidate the business in a new west block. By 1935, a large island site, bounded by Oxford Street, Old Cavendish Street, Henrietta Street and Chapel Place, had been acquired and demolition of the rear portion had begun. Meanwhile, John Spedan Lewis, founder of the John Lewis Partnership, had made an offer of GBP848,500 for the east block. This was accepted and the building was gradually vacated. During October to December 1934, Louis Blanc, architect, discussed his design for the new store with the board, who commented on every aspect of the plans from the floor layouts and escalator locations to the fašade details. The building was to cost over GBP600,000 and the entire sum was loaned by Harrods.
The rear portion of the new building was opened in February 1936 and departments were gradually moved from the front site. Despite the building works trade increased during 1935 and 1936. The building, with a 140-foot frontage on Oxford Street, was opened in February 1937. It comprised eight and one-quarter acres of selling space on eight floors, more than twice the accommodation offered by the west and east blocks combined.
In March 1937, the capital of the company was increased to GBP1,200,000 by the creation of 680,000 ordinary GBP1 shares. Trade was brisk during 1938 and 1939 but the outbreak of war heralded a period of shortage and control. Turnover in 1941 was the lowest since 1917/18. William Webb died 1944 and Woodman Burbidge in 1945. In June 1945, Sir Richard Burbidge succeeded the latter as director and chairman. Despite the persistence of controls, particularly the restraints on gross profit margins, sales soared after the war with net profits reaching GBP288,668 in 1948. In December 1948, the company acquired the drapery business of J F Rockhey Ltd, Torquay, Devon, England, and Newton Abbott, Devon, England, for the purchase price of GBP259,556. The stores continued to trade as a separate entity under their own name. During these years D H Evans & Co Ltd began to cut back its linen department in order to specialise on ladies' and children's clothing.
In February 1954, the entire preference share capital of the company was also acquired by Harrods and converted to ordinary shares, and D H Evans & Co Ltd became a wholly-owned subsidiary. The following year central buying was introduced for the fabric departments of all Harrods group stores. In 1954, Harrods Ltd, the store's owner, was acquired by House of Fraser Ltd, department store retailers, Glasgow, Scotland. The store traded successfully during the following decades and, in 1979, a new furniture department was created on the fifth floor to augment sales of fashion goods. In February 1980, a branch store was opened in a new shopping centre in Wood Green in north London, comprising 60,000 square feet of sales space on two floors. Between 1982 and 1984 the Oxford Street store was extensively refurbished with the opening of a lifestyle department, redesigning of the ground and lower ground floors, and refitting of the first and second floors. In 1985, the store was again refurbished. In 1987, the store was renamed House of Fraser and continued to trade under this name in 2011.
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