A bright fu­ture in store?

Former em­ployee Ar­mand Beasley hopes the sale of House of Fraser will mark the be­gin­ning of a suc­cess­ful new era for the iconic Manch­ester store Cheshire Life: Novem­ber 2018 Cheshire Life: Novem­ber 2018

Cheshire Life - - Manchester Life -

If you were to ask any Man­cu­nian over 40 about iconic Manch­ester shops and sites, I’m sure Ken­dals would be men­tioned. Un­der 30s may say House of Fraser, but to me and many oth­ers this Art Deco mas­ter­piece will al­ways be re­ferred to as Ken­dal’s or Ken­dal Milne.

The re­cent ac­qui­si­tion of the strug­gling House of Fraser group by Mike Ash­ley, for a cool £90 mil­lion, made me rem­i­nisce about my time work­ing and shop­ping in this iconic store.

For a few years I have been con­cerned about the lack of iden­tity and di­rec­tion not only for my beloved store but for House of Fraser in gen­eral, es­pe­cially when I’ve been in branches like Rack­hams, Al­trin­cham.

I have such won­der­ful mem­o­ries of shop­ping with my grandma in Lewis’s and in Ken­dals. The de­li­cious food hall, which was ac­cessed via a tun­nel un­der Deans­gate to the base­ment of the build­ing now oc­cu­pied by Wa­ter­stone’s but then moved in the 80s to a space where hand­bags and ac­ces­sories are to­day.

Ken­dals was of­ten re­ferred to as ‘the Har­rods of the North’, not only be­cause it was once owned by the group but be­cause of the ser­vice and qual­ity of goods avail­able.

In the early 90s I was work­ing as an ac­tor and had just come back from per­form­ing in a mu­si­cal at the Ed­in­burgh Fringe Fes­ti­val and found my­self me­an­der­ing in Ken­dals. I struck up a con­ver­sa­tion with a lady who worked on the Clin­ique counter and be­fore I knew it, I had bagged my­self a job on the counter! I had al­ways loved the at­mos­phere in the store with the per­fumery de­part­ment look­ing ex­cep­tion­ally glam­orous with the mar­ble Greek gods at­tached to columns with the in­di­vid­ual beauty coun­ters sur­round­ing them. As one of the few men in cos­met­ics at that time and dressed in Clin­ique’s sig­na­ture white lab coat, I stood out.

There was al­ways some­thing fun go­ing on in store from the fab­u­lous ae­rial cat­walk fash­ion show that ran through cos­met­ics one night, to Ru­paul rock­ing up in a limo to the launch of Manch­ester’s first MAC counter.

On the morn­ing of Satur­day June 15 1996 Ken­dals was busier than usual and there was a strange at­mos­phere. Ap­par­ently, there had been an evac­u­a­tion of part of the city and po­lice had cor­doned an area off. I had no idea what was go­ing on but in those days there were quite a lot of bomb threats from the IRA , with two no­table de­vices ex­plod­ing in 1992 in­jur­ing 65 peo­ple.

The cor­doned off area fin­ished at Ken­dals, so a lot of peo­ple thought in­stead of go­ing home let’s do a spot of shop­ping.

At 11.17am a 1500kg bomb ex­ploded out­side Marks & Spencer. I will never for­get this mo­ment.

There was a si­lence, then my skin felt as if it was be­ing pulled then pushed and that’s when I heard the ear-pierc­ing sound of Ken­dal’s win­dows shat­ter­ing. Thank­fully, no­body was se­ri­ously hurt and the city and its peo­ple re­built it­self.

In 1998, I was trained in all the ma­jor cos­metic brands and I opened the Per­sonal Beauty Stu­dio on the sec­ond floor where peo­ple could book in to get un­bi­ased ad­vice on what brands would be bet­ter for their skin and make-up needs. I held this po­si­tion for two years be­fore head­ing to Lon­don to be GMTVS reg­u­lar beauty ex­pert.

In 2005 House of Fraser re­fur­bished the store and for­mally dropped the Ken­dal’s name but be­cause it’s a listed build­ing, the Ken­dal Milne & Co name is still there above the main en­trance.

So, what is next for the House of Fraser? Ap­par­ently, Mike Ash­ley wants to re­duce the num­ber of stores from 59 to 47 and rein­vig­o­rate the brand. I would love to see Ken­dals have more of a bou­tique feel along with the other flag­ship stores like Frasers Glas­gow, Jen­ner’s Ed­in­burgh and Rack­hams Birm­ing­ham. Maybe part of the fash­ion de­part­ment that is ded­i­cated to show­cas­ing tal­ent from that par­tic­u­lar city?

Bring back the food hall too, and fo­cus on lo­cal pro­duce. A lot of peo­ple have fo­cused on Mr Ash­ley’s own­er­ship of Sports Di­rect and con­cerns over whether HOF will adopt their very par­tic­u­lar mer­chan­dis­ing style. But let’s not for­get he also owns the high end Flan­nels stores, do he does have an un­der­stand­ing of pre­mium brands.

What­ever hap­pens I’m sure the fu­ture of this beau­ti­ful de­part­ment store is se­cure and it will be stand­ing long af­ter we’re gone.

‘I would love to see Ken­dals have more of a bou­tique feel and maybe part of the fash­ion de­part­ment ded­i­cated to show­cas­ing tal­ent from the city’

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.