Having started as a tea buyer in China, Julius Drew (he added the final ‘e’ to his surname in 1913) sailed back to England in 1878. That year he opened a shop in Liverpool. There he met shopkeeper John Musker and together they moved to London in 1883, where they opened a groceries store in Edgware Road. The growth of working class earnings meant there was a rise in the demand for tea. At the same time supply was increasing thanks to the development of new plantations in India and Ceylon. Drew saw it as an opportunity for the large scale retailing of tea, together with a few other products, in multiple shops. In 1885 the two founded The Home and Colonial Trading Association, which offered teas as well as sugar, bacon, ham, margarine, butter, cheese, and eggs. Apart from tea, margarine, made by Dutch producer Jurgens, was an important source of income. Following a rapid expansion across the South, they then moved northward, opening branches in Leeds and Birmingham during the 1890s. By 1903 they had 400 retail outlets across Britain. Their business model was similar to that developed earlier by Thomas Lipton, who had opened his first shop in Glasgow in 1871 and by the 1880s was present in most British cities. As Michael Ball and David Sunderland explain:
The growth of the multiple was induced by a number of factors. These reflected changing trends in supply with the move away from domestic agriculture to imported foodstuffs, the switch from craft to factory production and the greater range of consumer goods available in the late Victorian and Edwardian Britain. Multiples also offered competitive pricing by limiting the number of goods sold in order to purchase in bulk goods with a high turnover. In this way, profit margins could be kept low - 0.5 per cent in the case of meat retailing - and the return on capital high. They minimised costs by refusing credit, eliminating home deliveries, adopting fairly simple shop fittings, and introducing strict and standardised branch stock control systems. Such shops, moreover, set new standards in quality and service. Their retailing areas were attractively laid out and kept immaculately clean, with long opening hours that extended from 7 a.m. to 11 p.m. on weekdays and to midnight on Saturdays. New sales techniques were successfully tried - such as adopting a uniform shop layout and advertising through handbills and sandwich-board men. (An economic history of London, 1800-1914, p. 136)
In 1888 The Home and Colonial Trading Association was transformed into The Home and Colonial Stores Limited, with an issued capital of £197,000 instead of £2,700 previously. With William Slaughter appointed as chairman of the new company, Drew and Musker retired. When they sold their shares in 1919, they pocketed a colossal £1 million!
If the pre-war period had been one of rapid expansion, the 1920s were difficult times. In 1919 the company passed under the control of Dutch margarine producer Jurgens, an illustration of the strong links between multiple retailers and margarine manufacturers. Yet the margarine market in Britain collapsed in the early 1920s. As a result, between 1921 and 1927, the share of the food market of the four big multiples Maypole Dairy, Home and Colonial Stores, Meadow’s, and Lipton’s fell from 43 per cent down to 20 per cent. Maypole, which had almost completely concentrated on sales of margarine, came close to collapse and in 1924 its owner agreed to sell it to Home and Colonial Stores. In 1929 Lipton’s grocery retail business merged with Home and Colonial Stores to form Allied Suppliers, although the name Home and Colonial Stores was retained. The new group had more than 3,000 branches nationwide.
Even though the company was still one of Britain’s largest in the 1950s and 1960s, it slowly began to decline because of growing competition from supermarkets. In 1961 the company dropped the name Home and Colonial Stores, rebranding itself as Allied Suppliers. In 1972 it was taken over by Cavenham Foods.
H & C
Location: Dartmouth Road / Picture taken on: 24/08/2009