Owen Owen

Last updated

Owen Owen Ltd
Genre Department store
FounderOwen Owen
Key people
Owen Owen

Owen Owen was a Liverpool-based operator of department stores in the United Kingdom and Canada. Beginning with a drapery shop in Liverpool, a chain of department stores was built up, often by taking over rival retailers. The company remained under Owen family control until the 1980s, and the brand ceased to be used in 2007.



Owen Owen was born on 13 October 1847 at Cwmrhaeadr near Machynlleth at the westernmost tip of Montgomeryshire, Wales. [1] His family were hill farmers. Welsh agriculture had prospered during the Napoleonic Wars when imports of food were restricted but, after the war, there was such a severe depression that in 1838 the farm which had been their home for generations had to be mortgaged and the following year sold. Owen Owen was the first child of his father's second wife, but she died after giving birth to six children when Owen Owen was only eight. His mother had a brother, Samuel, who needed help to run his draper's shop in Bath; so Owen Owen went to Bath and his uncle gave him both a home and an education. [2] He was educated at the Wesleyan College, Taunton, and started working at his uncle's shop in 1860. [1]

In 1868, at the age of 20, with some help from Uncle Samuel, Owen Owen opened his own draper's emporium at 121 London Road, Liverpool, [3] close to where his father's brother, Robert, had had a shop at number 93. By 1873 Owen Owen had over 120 employees, many from Wales, and a quarter of an acre of floor space. [1] Owen Owen was interested in his staff's well-being. Besides being the first employer in Liverpool to give staff a half day off each week, he also set up a trust fund for retired employees. In the 1880s he began investing in other enterprises including railways, and in 1889 became director of Evans & Owen Ltd in Bath, the shop started by his uncle. He moved to London in 1891, after marrying, but continued to manage the Liverpool store which became one of the largest stores in the north of England. He also invested in many other stores and estates. [1]

In his private life he was an active supporter of many Welsh organisations. He died of cancer in London on 27 March 1910 at the age of 62. [1]

The company effectively remained under family control until 1985.


Owen Owen opened a drapery shop at 121 London Road in Liverpool. Over the years the store expanded, but in the 1920s when the city's retail focus moved away from the London Road area, the Owen family lent the company the money to move to a better position on Clayton Square where a large purpose-built department store (originally designed as a luxury hotel) was erected. The company then purchased rival chain T J Hughes and moved that firm's Liverpool store into the empty London Road premises.

Owen Owen expanded by building a store in Coventry, which was bombed during World War II. After the war it continued to expand, purchasing G W Robinson in Canada and adding other stores to the UK portfolio, the Coventry store being rebuilt on a nearby site.

A subsidiary company, Plumb (Contract Furnishers and Shopfitters) Ltd., was created from its own shopfitting department and had offices at Bishop Street, Coventry and Kempston Street, Liverpool. By 1979 the business operated 19 department stores branded either Owen Owen or under their original name but taglined as an Owen Owen store. It also operated three T J Hughes stores in the UK, and seven G W Robinson stores in Canada. [4]

In the 1980s the Owen family sold the business. T J Hughes was split off and G W Robinson sold. In 1991 the firm purchased several Lewis's stores from administration (not to be confused with John Lewis) and was known briefly under the business name of 'Lewis's Owen Owen', before being taken over by Philip Green in 1994. [5]

In 1995 Green launched the brand Kid's HQ in four of his Lewis's and Owen Owen Stores. The company was then stripped of its assets, which included the closure of the flagship Liverpool branch of Owen Owen, and was cut from twelve stores to one, Lewis's of Liverpool, following the sale of many stores to other chains including Allders and Debenhams.

In early 2005, Philip Green sold his stake in the business to David Thompson who began a new phase of expansion at Owen Owen, acquiring Joplings and Robbs from the Merchant Retail Group and purchasing Esslemont & MacIntosh from the Esslemont family. [6] The Owen Owen brand name was no longer used, but remained the name of the operating company.

On 28 February 2007 Owen Owen entered administration. [7] The reason claimed for the company's demise was the disruption in Liverpool city centre caused by the Big Dig. The Esslemont & MacIntosh store at Aberdeen was closed on 5 May 2007. In the same month the Liverpool, Hexham and Sunderland stores were sold as a going concern to Vergo Retail Ltd., controlled by the previous owner of Owen Owen, David Thompson, and enabling the stores to continue to trade. [8]

Former department stores in the United Kingdom

Owen Owen


Other department stores

Former G W Robinson stores in Canada

The Owen Owen Trust Fund

The trust fund continues as a registered charity, supporting those who were formerly employed by any company in the Owen Owen group, together with their spouses and dependents. [12]

Related Research Articles

Harrods British department store

Harrods Limited is a department store located on Brompton Road in Knightsbridge, London, England. It is owned by the state of Qatar via its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority. The Harrods brand also applies to other enterprises undertaken by the Harrods group of companies including Harrods Estates, Harrods Aviation and Air Harrods, and formerly to Harrods Buenos Aires, sold by Harrods in 1922 and closed as of 2011.

British Home Stores former British department store chain

British Home Stores, commonly abbreviated to BHS and latterly legally styled BHS Ltd, was a British department store chain, primarily selling clothing and household items. In its later years, the company began to expand into furniture, electronics, entertainment, convenience groceries and fragrance and beauty products.

Allders Was an independent department store operating in the United Kingdom.

Allders was an independent department store operating in the United Kingdom.


Joplings was a department store, located in Sunderland, England, which was part of the former Vergo Retail Ltd. group of department stores.

William Whiteley 19th/20th-century English retail entrepreneur

William Whiteley was an English entrepreneur of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. He was the founder of the William Whiteley Limited retail company whose eponymous department store became the Whiteleys shopping centre.

House of Fraser Department store group

House of Fraser is a British department store group with 47 outlets across the United Kingdom. It was established in Glasgow, Scotland in 1849 as Arthur and Fraser. By 1891, it was known as Fraser & Sons. The company grew steadily during the early 20th century, and after the Second World War, a large number of acquisitions transformed the company into a national chain.


Lewis's was a chain of British department stores that operated from 1856 to 2010. The owners of Lewis's have gone into administration many times over the years, including 1991. The first store, which opened in Liverpool city centre, became the flagship of the chain of stores operating under the Lewis's name. Several stores in the chain were bought in 1991 by the company Owen Owen and continued to operate under the Lewis's brand name for several years, but after the closure of the Manchester store in 2002, only the original Liverpool store continued to trade under the Lewis's name. This store was sold in 2007 to the Vergo Retail Ltd and closed in 2010.


Bentalls is a British department store chain with a branch in Kingston upon Thames. The well regarded 'county' department store began as a drapery shop, founded by Frank Bentall in 1867. The company was formerly listed on the London Stock Exchange, but since 2001 has been owned by the private Fenwick group.

T. J. Hughes, registered and styled as TJ Hughes, is a British discount department store brand which first emerged in Liverpool in 1912.

John Lewis & Partners British department store chain

John Lewis & Partners is a brand of high-end department stores operating throughout Great Britain, with concessions also located in the Republic of Ireland and Australia. The brand sells general merchandise as part of the employee-owned mutual organization known as the John Lewis Partnership, the largest co-operative in the United Kingdom. It was created by Spedan Lewis, son of the founder, John Lewis, in 1929. The chain has promised since 1925 that it is "never knowingly undersold" – it will always at least match a lower price offered by a national high street competitor.

The Shops at Montebello is a shopping mall mainly located within the city limits of Montebello, California, with over 120 national and local retail outlets such as Aeropostale, Disney Store, Gymboree, Hollister, Victoria’s Secret and BJ's Restaurant & Brewery. A small portion of its eastern side is actually within the city limits of Rosemead. It features major department stores, children's stores, smaller shops such as beauty and bath stores, health stores and salons, as well as a small food court. The boundary line between Montebello and Rosemead runs through the eastern end of the mall. Policing is provided by the City of Montebello. It was managed by The Macerich Company before being sold to Simon Property Group in 2011. The mall features 758,504 sq ft of leasable retail space. As of 2019, Simon no longer owns the mall. Pacific Retail announced ownership of the mall on the company Instagram page on January 24, 2019.

John Lewis (department store founder) English businessman and cuncillor

John Lewis was an English businessman and councillor, known for being the founder of the John Lewis department store on Oxford Street, London and the national John Lewis department store chain.

Vergo Retail

Vergo Retail Ltd was a department store business based in Liverpool, England, founded in 2007. Vergo Retail ran 20 shops, consisting of nine department stores, including Lewis's of Liverpool, Robbs of Hexham, Joplings of Sunderland and Derrys of Plymouth and four others in Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk; four Homemaker stores in Devon, four home and fashion stores in Essex and Suffolk; two home stores in Essex; and a jewellery store in Colchester. The company entered administration in 2010.

Sears plc was a large British-based conglomerate. The company was listed on the London Stock Exchange and was once a constituent of the FTSE 100 Index. It was acquired by Philip Green in 1999.

Principles was a UK-based fashion retailer founded in 1984.

Eason & Son

Eason & Son is an Irish retail company primarily involved in the wholesale and distribution of books, newspapers, magazines, stationery and cards in Ireland It is currently the largest supplier of books, magazines and newspapers in Ireland.

Marshall & Snelgrove

Marshall & Snelgrove was a department store on the north side of Oxford Street, London, on the corner with Vere Street founded by James Marshall. The company is now part of Debenhams.

Scottish Drapery Corporation was a holding company for a group of Scottish department stores and drapers.

James Colmer was a small group of English department stores based in the West Country with its flagship store located on Union Street, Bath, Somerset.


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 National Library of Wales, Owen Owen, Liverpool, manuscripts, [1878]-1910 / Owen Owen. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  2. "Owen Owen link to Liverpool is celebrated", Daily Post, 16 June 2008. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  3. Arabella McIntyre-Brown, Liverpool: the first 1,000 years, Capsica Ltd., 2001, p.95
  4. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 "A Family Business - Suters Ltd" . Retrieved 10 March 2015.
  5. "Trading continues after Owen Owen collapse", Drapers Online, 2 March 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  6. "Owen Owen buys NE stores in £5m U-turn", Liverpool Daily Post, 20 January 2005. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  7. "Owen Owen falls into administration", Retail Week, 2 March 2007. Retrieved 14 November 2013
  8. "Jobs saved as iconic store sold". BBC News Online. 22 May 2007.
  9. "Former W S Wood department store". History Points. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  10. "Allied Maples Group' records'" (PDF). Victoria and Albert Museum: Archive of Art and Design. Retrieved 11 May 2015.
  11. "Opening night of lost Stourbridge cinema". Black Country Bugle. 11 June 2009. Archived from the original on 19 July 2012. Retrieved 12 April 2017.
  12. "Registered charity number 233264". Charity Commission. Retrieved 2 May 2018.