On this day in history : 28th September 1884 – Michael Marks and Tom Spencer form a partnership – bringing us a name we are all familiar with on the high street….
Marks, a Polish refugee, had opened a stall in Kirkgate Market, Leeds, some years before…. He had arrived in Britain, from his hometown of Slonim, Belarus with little money and only a smattering of English…. However, his penny bazaar – with its slogan ‘Don’t ask the price, it’s a penny’ was soon a roaring success and he needed to take on a partner…. He approached an associate, Isaac Dewhirst, the owner of a wholesale company who had loaned him the money for his initial start-up costs…. Dewhirst recommended his senior cashier, Tom Spencer – who agreed and invested £300….
Together they ran the business, adding ‘Admission free’ to the ‘it’s a penny’ slogan – drawing their potential customers in to browse without obligation to buy – quite an unusual concept in those days…. But it worked; by 1900 as well as 36 penny bazaars they had 12 high street shops….and became a public company in 1926…. The flagship store at Marble Arch, London, was opened in 1930…. Marks and Spencer was set to become a familiar landmark on so many high streets and in our shopping centres….